May 2022

I’ve been a bit lazy and didn’t do an April review. With the markets as they were I just couldn’t be bothered. I did update my spreadsheets, but never quite found the motivation to put out a post. I’m just going to skip straight to May’s review and take it from there. The figures in brackets are from March.

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I use that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.

Debts

Mortgage £87,006.60 (£87,933.02)

Assets

Cash £24,780.48 (£27,468.16)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s £19,912.26 (£19,416.17)

Shares £82,037.05 (£79,431.87)  

House £278,089 (£278,089) 

Total £542,404.79 (£541,991.20)

Net Worth including house equity

£542,404.79 – £87,006.60 = £455,398.19 (£454,058.18)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£19,912.26 – £87,006.60 = -£67,094.34 (-£68,516.85)

It’s all a bit depressing really. I’m trying to tell myself the markets are just on sale, but I’m not sure I’m really managing to convince myself. My cash amount is down a bit as I got some dividends from my work shares. I took this as cash and added some money from my savings to put into my index trackers. I hit £50k in my Vanguard account at the end of May for the first time. Of course it’s since ducked under again, but it was still nice to hit that figure. Considering it doesn’t seem that long ago that I stuck £600 in of dividend money just to test the waters. My plan is still to get rid of more of my work shares, but I’ll do it gradually.

So my overall figures are up, but considering this covers a two month period and I’m putting in as much as I can it’s not the most heartening of reads. It’s not impacting my strategy though. And in fact I have just increased my AVC pension contributions again. I’ll keep plugging away and hope that by the time I come to retire I’ll have squirrelled enough away to have a fun retirement, and hopefully be able to go a bit earlier than I would have if I hadn’t discovered FIRE. I need to remember that I’m looking at a worse case scenario of retiring at 60 on more disposable income than I’m living on now. Before I’m not sure I could have ever really fully retired. So that has to be a win.

I’ve got my five year fixed rate mortgage up and running now. I was sad to say goodbye to my staff base rate tracker mortgage, but the time was right for some peace of mind with rates as they are at the moment. It was the right decision for me, no matter what happens to interest rates. You can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep.

I seem to have become a bit of a spendy pants recently. I seem to be saying yes to everything that’s suggested. I’ve barely got a weekend with nothing happening between now and the end of the summer. That’s unheard of for me, but I’m really enjoying making up for lost time. Saying that, I’m still trying to do things as cheaply as possible and I still haven’t ventured abroad. I’ve even slightly curtailed my parkrun tourism. It’s difficult to justify a 2 hour plus round trip for a 30 minute run when there’s one a mile from my house. I am however getting very good at combining trips to fit in multiple activities to make the most of the astronomical petrol costs.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

It seems like a long time ago, but here are the goals I was working for in March.

  • Finish Duolingo Unit 6 of the Spanish tree. PASS. Delighted to get this one done and I’m working my way through unit 7 now, which I should hopefully get done by the end of the year.
  • Read the Spanish Intermediate short stories book that I’ve bought FAIL I’ve not even picked this up. I think it’s a bit too difficult for me which is putting me off. Must do better.
  • Watch 16 episodes of Betty en NY PASS. I am about 75 episodes into this. It’s total trash, but it’s pretty much my go to if I have a spare 45 minutes and fancy watching a bit of telly.
  • Reach 100 parkruns. PASS. I’m so happy about this one. I’m wearing my 100 tshirt with pride
  • Book a trip to Alton Towers for the summer PASS. This is all booked and we’re off there next week.

I’ve managed to tick off a few things from my 60 for 60 list as well. (I did say I was saying yes to things!) I’ll do a post on that later in the summer as I’ve got a couple more things coming up soon that are on my list. The main one is the marathon I’ve just recently completed. I’m so chuffed with that, even though it was incredibly tough. And there’s not long till my ultra marathon, so I just need to get my legs sufficiently recovered to be able to manage those 34 miles.

Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

As I have so much going on running wise just now I’m not going to set myself any goals for June. I need to get myself to the start line of the ultra fully recovered from the marathon, injury free and believing that I can complete the route. I know what I need to do, I just need to put my big girls pants on and get it done.

March 2022. Warning, there was lots of running and not much else.

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I use that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.

Debts

Mortgage £87,933.02 (£88,443,23)

Assets

Cash £27,468.16 (£26,496.43)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s £19,416.17 (£17,360.11)

Shares £79,431.87 (£75,798.37)  

House £278,089 (£278,089) 

Total £541,991.20 (£535,329.91)

Net Worth including house equity

£541,991.20 – £87,933.02 = £454,058.18 (£446,886.68)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£19,416.17 – £87,933.02 = -£68,516.85 (-£-71,083.12)

The figures are pretty consistently better than last month. It’s nice to see a bit of a bounce back in the markets. I’ve got a bit more cash as a result of my annual bonus, although I’ve spent that already on car expenses this month. Not very exciting, but at least I didn’t have to dip into my savings to cover the cost. It’s great to see my AVC’s doing a bit better. I’m putting a decent chunk of my salary into those, so it’s good to start to see them grow a bit. It will be nice to get my net worth including the house to half a million. I imagine I’ve got a while to go with that depending on what happens to house prices. It’s a bit of an arbitrary one as I’ve no intention of selling my house any time soon.

I do worry a bit that I’m spending more than I should be. I’m putting a good amount in investments each month, but that doesn’t leave an awful lot over for fun stuff. Nevetheless I do seem to be having plenty of trips away. I’m working on the assumption that I should say yes to things as none of us know how long we’ve got on this planet. It’s all well and good saving for the future you, but you also have to take care of current you as well. I guess if that means I’m using up some of my savings then I can probably live with that. I still have far too much cash sitting there anyway, so using it for trips down to Cambridge to drop my son off and visiting far flung parkruns is probably a pretty good use for it.

Let’s have a look at the goals I set myself for March now.

  • Follow marathon training plan PASS This is most definitely my priority just now. The rest of my life is having to fit around my training plan.
  • Follow ultra training plan PASS I still can’t quite imagine how I’m going to make it around 55km, but I’m following the plan and there’s still plenty of time to go.
  • Complete half marathon race I did the Alloa half marathon which was a gorgeous one. The villages we ran through were a bit on the scruffy side, but the views of the hills more than made up for it. I was chuffed with my time too. 2.08 hours and I felt pretty strong. I didn’t even totally hate the killer hill at 11 miles.
  • Trip to Ipswich to do parkrun (sorry I mean to collect my son from university, even if Ipswich is 50 miles in the wrong direction. That is absolutely nothing to do with needing an I for the parkrun alphabet challenge!) PASS Dad and I had a lovely trip to Ipswich, bagged an I for our challenge and spent some quality dad and daughter time. We even remembered to go and collect my son. Result.
  • Watch 16 episodes of Betty en NY PASS I’m still enjoying this, understanding a fair amount and not finding it a chore to watch it. The only problem is making the time with all this running that I’m doing.
  • Set up retire at 55 spreadsheet FAIL As this was a goal for February too then I think it’s safe to say I’m not all that fussed about getting this done. And let’s be honest there’s no great rush. Chances of my retiring at 55 are slim to non existent. No doubt one rainy afternoon I’ll get around to setting this up, but for now I’m going to stop setting it as a goal.

A pretty good month one way and another. I’m doing absolutely loads of running and walking. I’m managing to get the miles in one way or another. Really it’s finding the time that’s the most difficult thing. This working for a living really gets in the way of my training. I can just about manage it if there’s not too much else going on, but try and fit in a bit of a social life and it gets pretty difficult. So this weekend dad came to stay for a night for yet another parkrun related adventure. Not long after he arrived I finished work and then promptly had to go out for a 9 mile run. And next week I need to do a 14 mile run before driving to Newcastle for yet another parkrun/uni dropping off road trip. We’ll not even talk about the day after the Alloa half marathon where I’d booked a day off work to recover and realised that was the only day that week I would have time for my long run, so had to go out and run 18 miles.

The training period for the marathon has had to be extended as well. I was due to do the Stirling Marathon in May, but they’ve just cancelled it. They’re saying it’s because there weren’t sufficient numbers signed up, but that doesn’t seem all that likely. They postponed back in October too, so this is the second time I’ve been training for this marathon that’s not going ahead. There’s no way I wanted to have to start afresh for another race later in the year, so I’ve signed up for another marathon a month later than the original one. It’s in Perthshire and should be beautiful, if somewhat hilly with 1500 ft of ascent. I’d better get hill training!

Time to set some goals for April then. It goes without saying that I need to keep plugging away at my marathon and ultra training plans. Keeping that in mind I’m not going to set myself much else to do. I’ve got to be realistic about how much time I’ve got.

  • Finish Duolingo Unit 6 of the Spanish tree. As long as I’m consistent on this one then I should be fine. I’ve worked out what I need to do every day, so I just need to stick to that
  • Read the Spanish Intermediate short stories book that I’ve bought. I’ve already read the Beginners one, so hopefully I’ll cope with this one just as well
  • Watch 16 episodes of Betty en NY
  • Reach 100 parkruns. I’m very excited about this one. I’m almost there. Helped by the fact that I’ve gone on a secondment and so am not working Saturdays for the next few months.
  • Book a trip to Alton Towers for the summer. I really want to book some family time in whilst my offspring are still happy to spend time with me
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

That’s plenty to be getting on with along with all the running that I need to be doing. All in all it’s not been a bad March, and it’s great to be seeing the signs of the summer to come. We’ll just have to ignore the snow and hailstorms that randomly keep appearing between the sunny spells!

February Review

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I use that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.

Debts

Mortgage £88,443,23 (£88,933.02)

Assets

Cash £26,496.43 (£26,841.91)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s £17,360.11 (£18,132.06)

Shares £75,798.37 (£82,111.70)  

House £278,089 (£269,000) 

Total £535,329.91 (£533,671.67)

Net Worth including house equity

£535,329.91 – £88,443.23 = £446,886.68 (£444,738.65)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£17,360.11 – £88,443.23 = -£-71,083.12 (-£70,800.96)

We all know the markets are down. The world is going to hell in a handcart and there’s not much we can do about it. Apart from some minor adjustment to my strategy, which I’ll talk about in a moment, I’m just carrying on the same as always. Yes my shares are down, but then that’s the same for everybody. I’m still putting money in each month to investments, so no change there. The one good thing about the state of the markets is that it seems to have cured me of my daily habit of checking my Vanguard account. It used to be my treat to myself after work. It’s more trick than treat now, so funnily enough I’ve not checked it for weeks!

Based on recent Bank of England base rate increases, including yet another one yesterday, I was starting to get a bit jittering being on a tracker mortgage. Yes, it tracks the base rate exactly, so for a long time I was only paying 0.1% It’s hard to argue with that. We now have an alternative staff mortgage which is a discounted fixed rate. If you go over to that you can never revert back to the base rate tracker. I absolutely love my  tracker mortgage, but this month I bit the bullet and moved over to the discounted fixed rate. I’ve tied in to a 5 year fixed rate at 1.49% Considering the base rate is already up to 0.75% I’m more and more convinced I’ve done the right thing. There’s no way I’ll be in a position to pay my mortgage off before the five years is up (I wish!) so I reckon it’s a good call. I feel like I’ve future proofed my mortgage nicely there and it will help me sleep at night without worrying about future rate rises.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

As a result of that application I found out the index valuation for my property rather than relying on the Zoopla estimates that I’ve been using up till now. Not that an index val is necessarily all that accurate, but I’m happy to go with the higher figure. As my plan is to use the cash lump sum from my AVC fund to repay my mortgage when I retire I have slightly increased the amount of AVC’s I’m putting in each month. I can’t really afford an increase, but I’m sure I’ll manage somehow, I always do!

Not much else to say really. The figures are rubbish, but in the grand scheme of things there’s more important things happening in the world. At least I’m not getting bombed, so I’m counting my blessings. I’m readjusting my mindset to a potentially slighter later retirement age. I was thinking 58 was definitely possible, with 57 being potentially achievable with a following wind. I’m now thinking that maybe I should pace myself for retiring at 60, and if I can go earlier then fantastic. I think if I have the expectation of going at 57 and then I have to work an extra 3 years then that will feel awful. Much better to over achieve I think rather than grumping my way through an extra three years of work that I didn’t think I was going to have to do.

Without further ado let’s move on to how I did in February against the goals that I set myself.

  • Continue to follow my marathon training plan PASS I’m now half way through the plan and although I’m slow as anything I’ve done all the miles that I’m supposed to up to this point
  • Find an ultra training plan and figure out how to combine this with the marathon plan PASS I’ve found a plan with the best name in the history of the world. It’s the couch to 50k plan. My race is 55k, so I need to tweak it slightly, but I’ve started already and so far am managing to combine the marathon and ultra training
  • Walk at least once a week PASS I’m doing twice a week. Once for 90 minutes and one for just under an hour. This is not a chore, I absolutely love it. Particularly nice now the nights are getting a bit lighter
  • Do 2 lessons a day on Duolingo Spanish PASS I’m doing great with this. I’m really enjoying it and feel that I’m definitely making some progress
  • Watch at least 4 episodes a week of Betty en NY in Spanish PASS I actually watched more than this. This has become my go to boxset. Crucially I don’t have an English language boxset on the go, so if I fancy some down time watching telly I just stick this on.
  • Finish setting up spreadsheets with alternative retirement dates and how much I need to have in investments (Finally a FIRE goal, yay!) ALMOST! I’ve done up to retiring at 56. I’ve still got the retire at 55 spreadsheet to do, but quite honestly that is such a fantasy spreadsheet that it’s barely worth doing. I’ll get around to it at some point, but honestly there’s no rush
  • Go to the cinema and watch The Godfather (It’s always good to have a fun goal, and considering how much I love this film I have to take advantage of it being on the big screen for an anniversary showing) PASS And I even saw the second one at the cinema too. I didn’t manage to make it there for the third one, but it was fabulous to be back at the cinema

Reading that back I’m pretty chuffed with myself. I’ve worked hard this month. I do feel that I’ve pretty much just worked, run, done Spanish and slept. My house is chaotic, I’m constantly chasing my tail and despite getting to bed early I feel like I’m not getting enough sleep. I’m doing it though. I’m on track with my training plans and as long as I can stay injury free I should be good to go with both the marathon and ultra.

There’s not much time in my life for much except work and running just now. My goals for March are going to reflect that, so they’ll be very similar to last month’s

  • Follow marathon training plan
  • Follow ultra training plan
  • Complete half marathon race
  • Trip to Ipswich to do parkrun (sorry I mean to collect my son from university, even if Ipswich is 50 miles in the wrong direction. That is absolutely nothing to do with needing an I for the parkrun alphabet challenge!)
  • Watch 16 episodes of Betty en NY
  • Set up retire at 55 spreadsheet
Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

That’s more than enough to be getting on with. There are only so many hours in the day after all. 2022 seems to be turning into the year for running. I’ll focus on that, get some of my 60 for 60 goals ticked off and then turn my attention to other things next year. I probably need to stop entering so many races though. It’s starting to get beyond ridiculous. I’m sure there’s worse hobbies to have though.

January 2022. Running, Eating, Spanish and some FIRE Stuff

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I use that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.

Debts

Mortgage £88,933.02 (£89,423.23)

Assets

Cash £26,841.91 (£27,620.56)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s  £18,132.06 (£18,246.40)

Shares £82,111.70 (£82,183.43)  

House £269,000 (£269,000) 

Total £533,671.67 (£534,636.39)

Net Worth including house equity

£533,671.67 – £88.933.02 = £444,738.65 (£445,213.16)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£18,132.06 – £88,933.02 = -£70,800.96 (-£71,176.83)

Cash is down a bit yet again. Life seems to be very expensive at the minute. Car repairs, insurances, trips away, lots of petrol for yet another big long trip to Cambridge to drop off uni boy. You know what though? Life is for living. The car repairs I could do without, but the trip to Cambridge was brilliant and the more things like that I can do the better. I’m not frittering money away on nonsense. I’m spending money on things that I need or experiences that I want. I’m not breaking the bank and I still have plenty in savings, so I’m not going to worry too much. Not very FIRE of me, but what the hell!

Photo by Aleksandr Neplokhov on Pexels.com

Considering the state of the markets just now I’m fairly happy with my investment figures. Down very slightly despite me having paid another month’s worth of money in, but it could be a lot worse. Given the recent Bank of England base rate announcements I’m slightly jittery about the amount of mortgage debt I have. I’m sticking with my decision to barely overpay my mortgage and stick the money into my AVC fund instead. Unless interest rates get ridiculous I’m happy this is the right route for me. Time will tell I guess.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

January has gone fairly well. Mum and dad came up to stay for a week which was lovely but quite full on. I was working, but we managed to get plenty of walks and talks in. I’ve lived on my own (well with the kids) for so long I find it quite exhausting having other people in the house. It’s made me realise how much I value my own company and time to myself. Saying that we did have a great time and it was lovely to spend time with them.

I’m well in the swing of half and full marathon training now. In terms of the number of weeks I need to complete on my marathon training plan I am now a quarter of the way through. Of course the miles really ramp up the further you get through the plan. In a moment of rash confidence I have signed up for an ultra marathon in the summer. An ultra is anything longer than a marathon, in this case 55km or 34 miles. Having said last year that I thought I should stop doing the longer races as I kept getting injured, I now have 2 halves, 1 full and 1 ultra marathon race this year.

Doing a full marathon and an ultra is on my 60 for 60 list, so it’s not completely come from nowhere. My thinking was if I was training for a marathon then I might as well combine that with training for an ultra. Having signed up I’m not quite sure how compatible the training is going to be. In an ultra the idea is that you cover the miles as efficiently as possible. So you walk the hills and run the flats and downhills. You also eat as you go, so I need to practice fuelling on the go. How bad can it be??? I go from complete and utter exhilaration at the thought to total terror at getting lost in the woods and never being seen again.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

I didn’t set specific goals for January, but this is what I wanted to work on.

‘A trip to Cambridge, start my marathon training plan and get my eating sorted and my weight back to  where it usually is. I also want to finish unit 6 of the Spanish Duolingo course.’

I had a great trip to Cambridge and I am well in the swing of my marathon training. The eating is a little bit all over the place. I’m doing a bit better now, but it’s not been great. My weight has fluctuated quite a bit. I started HRT this month, so I’m going to go with that’s the reason. I’m not quite sure it is, but it’s possible I guess. Either way we’re mid February now and I’m less than half a stone from my ideal weight. I’m trying not to focus on that too much. I want to eat for my health and not for my weight. Saying that I really don’t want to be dragging excess weight around with me when I’m running long distances. I’m working hard on my Duolingo Spanish. I don’t know what I was thinking saying I could finish unit 6. Getting unit 6 and 7 is realistic by the end of the year, so unit 6 is going to take me a while. I’m enjoying it though and still feel that I’m making some steady progress.

For February I don’t think it’s going to be a massive surprise that running features quite a lot. Here’s what I want to work on

  • Continue to follow my marathon training plan
  • Find an ultra training plan and figure out how to combine this with the marathon plan
  • Walk at least once a week
  • Do 2 lessons a day on Duolingo Spanish
  • Watch at least 4 episodes a week of Betty en NY in Spanish.
  • Finish setting up spreadsheets with alternative retirement dates and how much I need to have in investments (Finally a FIRE goal, yay!)
  • Go to the cinema and watch The Godfather (It’s always good to have a fun goal, and considering how much I love this film I have to take advantage of it being on the big screen for an anniversary showing)

That’s plenty for me to get cracking with in February. Work is busy with lots of new things for me to learn there. Managing work, getting my runs in, not eating too much rubbish and getting plenty of sleep . If I manage all of that then I’ll be happy.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com

A Quick December Review

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I use that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.

I didn’t do an update for November. My laptop had finally died a death that even my home grown tech support couldn’t fix. I can’t complain too much as he managed to eek an extra year out of it for me before it gave up the ghost. I have finally got around to getting myself a new laptop so I am good to go again. I won’t bother doing my figures for November, but instead will just jump straight to December with October’s figures in brackets for comparison. Quite frankly as 2021 is done and dusted now it seems a bit pointless to do a double month update.

Debts

Mortgage £89,423.23 (£90,408.16)

Assets

Cash £27,620.56 (£28,252.00)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s £18,246.40 (£16,754.95)

Shares £82,183.43 (£80,026.26)  

House £269,000 (£269,000) 

Total £534,636.39 (£531,619.21)

Net Worth including house equity

£534,636.39 – £89,423.23 = £445,213.16 (£441,211.05)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£18,246.40 – £89,423.23 = -£71,176.83 (-£73,653.21)

I’m happy with those figures. My shares and AVC fund combined have gone over the £100k mark for the first time, which is lovely to see. The next step is to get the shares alone to £100k as the AVC fund is allocated to pay off my mortgage when I stop working.

My cash amount has gone down a little, but not nearly as much as I expected it to. Two years after a flood from the ensuite into the kitchen I finally have a working ensuite bathroom again. It is absolutely fabulous, and I am so happy that I got it done. I had allocated money from my savings for the work, but at the last minute my parents transferred a chunk of money over to me to pay for the majority of the work. I was really surprised and absolutely delighted. Their thinking is I might as well have some money from my inheritance now rather than waiting until they kick the bucket, hopefully many years down the line. I also bought a new laptop, but didn’t spend a fortune on that.

Having dropped quite a bit last month, my share figures are looking nice and healthy again. I’m definitely going in the right direction. On paper my budgets don’t really work, so I’m not quite sure how I’m managing to keep investing the amount that I do. I guess Covid can have some financial advantages as I’m still not doing all that much that involves spending money. I’m not sure quite how sustainable my investing level is longer term, but I’ll keep going as long as I can.

I have booked a weekend away to York for myself and my folks for later in the year, which was expensive, but should be a great trip away and worth the money. I’ve also booked a ticket to go and see the Scotland’s Strongest Man competition in the summer. Again I’m trying to have some events in the diary so I have things to look forward to. Crucial in these continued strange times.

In terms of how I got on in the latter part of the year, it was probably a bit of a mixed bag. I got back on the phone at work speaking to customers again and remembered that there’s lots of parts of my job that I do actually like. Although I’d much rather be at FIRE and able to fill my days with activities of my choice, actually what I’m doing in my day job can actually be quite fun at times. I’ve managed to deal with my anxiety and start actually living my life again, rather than just surviving. That’s been a bit of an adjustment after purely focussing on my mental health for a good few months there. It’s good to get a bit more balance in my life even if it sometimes feels a little overwhelming getting back in the thick of things.

I just read back my October review and saw that my running was going really badly and my eating was in a great place. I have to say that’s totally reversed now. I’m loving my running and am doing plenty of it. My eating on the other hand is not in quite such a good place. You know though, Christmas!! I’ll really need to get back to a place of healthy eating again, but as I have my folks here for a week on holiday it’s not really happening just now.

In January I want to continue to focus on my running. I have a half marathon in March and a full marathon in May. The half is easy enough, but I’ve only done one full marathon before and it was a bit of a disaster. I’m determined to do better this time. I’ve found a training plan that I’m happy with and I start it next week. In the meantime I’m running plenty and building a really solid base of fitness. I just need to stay injury free, get plenty of sleep and sort out my diet again.

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

I’ve got another trip to Cambridge this month to deposit the eldest back to uni. That will allow dad and I to do the final parkrun in Cambridge itself. I’ve got a bit of a plan put together for parkruns this year. I should hit 100 parkruns in total around easter time and am going to almost be there with the A-Z challenge. You have to go abroad for a Z, but I should have the UK ones done this year. The fact that I have got my parents a trip to York with me as their Christmas present is completely coincidental. And the fact that we will be there on a Saturday morning and dad and I will be able to collect a Y parkrun is neither here nor there!

Photo by Peter Sutton on Pexels.com

I think that will be enough for January. A trip to Cambridge, start my marathon training plan and get my eating sorted and my weight back to  where it usually is. I also want to finish unit 6 of the Spanish Duolingo course. That should be enough to keep my out of mischief for now.

Goals Vs Habits

First up I need to declare a bit of a vested interest. I absolutely love goals. I love everything about them. The thinking about what you want to change, deciding to make a fresh start, working towards your goals and then that wonderful buzz that you get when you achieve them. Goals are kind of my thing. I’m not quite sure how people get out of bed in the morning without knowing that they have goals they’re working towards. One of my favourite books is “Goals! How To Get Everything You Want – Faster Than You Ever Though Possible” by Brian Tracy. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve read that book. It inspires me every time I even think about reading it again.

I used to work in sales and I loved having targets. If I didn’t know what I was supposed to achieve then I didn’t feel like I had a reason to go to work. Working in financial services things changed a bit and you were no longer allowed to have targets. Rightly so you should be providing what’s right for the customer. The thing is though that if sales is done right the customer gets what’s right for them and you hit your quota. If I wasn’t given a target then I would just set one for myself.

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

As well as targets at work I’ve always set myself goals to work on in my private life. I’m constantly working on my weight, exercise, sleep, studying languages, you name it really. I’m good at achieving goals if I really set my mind to it. My problem has never really been around not being able to hit goals, but rather in deciding what I wanted to work towards. Once I had something in mind then I would do everything in my power to achieve that goal.

There’s been a number of times in my life where I’ve had some pretty audacious goals. When I was in my early twenties I decided that I wanted to go and live and work in Spain. I had just graduated, had a load of debt, no idea how to earn a living over there and I didn’t speak a word of Spanish. Within two years I’d paid all my debts off, had been to night classes to learn enough Spanish to get by and I had been on a two week course to learn how to teach English as a foreign language. Next thing I knew I was over in Spain living my dream.

Another goal that I set myself was around the house that I lived in. After getting divorced I found myself having to start again financially with a two and three year old in tow. The family home got sold and I had to downsize to what I could afford on part time wages with child care thrown into the mix. I made a lovely home for the three of us, and we lived in that house for eleven years. I always knew I wanted something better though. I overpaid my mortgage, scrimped and saved and invested money that was to be allocated for the next home. Four years ago I managed to move us to a much bigger house, with plenty of room for the kids to come back to stay after they’ve flown the nest. It also gives me the option to have my folks come to live with me if needs be in the future. This was a really important goal for me, but not one that could be achieved quickly or easily. I learnt the value of patience whilst working towards this goal.

Photo by Scott Webb on Pexels.com

Whilst researching financial planning I discovered the FIRE movement which then gave me my biggest goal ever to shoot for. On the face of it I wasn’t the ideal candidate for FIRE. I was in my late forties by the time I discovered it. I was in a position where I honestly thought I could never retire. All my planning had been around surviving month to month and trying to improve our living situation. Every time I thought about retirement and pensions I would feel incredibly stressed and that there was nothing I could do about my situation. In just a few years I’ve gone from that point to knowing that I can definitely retire at sixty, probably on more disposable income than I’ve ever had before, and with it looking pretty likely that I’ll be able to afford to go part time in four years time when I hit 55. That’s quite a turnaround.

The way I’ve been able to work my way towards FIRE is with goal setting. I’ve looked at how much I need to have invested to be able to stop working. As time has gone on I’ve adjusted these goals, and decided that I wanted to have a bit more money in retirement to be able to travel when I want to. My goals have changed as a result and I’m definitely on track to achieve everything that I want to. No doubt there will be plenty more adjustments to make over the next nine years, but staying flexible in the face of new information is one of the things I love about goal setting.

As I’m such a big fan of goal setting I’m not sure why I’d need any other way to work towards change. Then I read James Clear’s book “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way To Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones”. That was a bit of a game changer for me. I am all about habits and routines, probably more than is good for me, but this showed me the benefits of the way that I have naturally organised my life. I already have so many habits that have developed naturally over time, lots of them good, but plenty of them not quite so beneficial.

I tried to think about all of the habits that I have. I’m sure I have missed a lot, but some of them include

  • Weighing myself every day
  • Doing physio exercises for my neck in the shower daily
  • Making my bed every morning
  • Having the same porridge with raisins and chia seeds breakfast
  • Strength exercises to help with my running
  • Meditating
  • Having a fruit and yoghurt morning snack
  • Drying down the shower to stop mould developing
  • Studying Spanish on Duolingo (900 days and counting)
  • Running
  • Eating a bowl of branflakes after work
  • Taking part in parkrun every Saturday that I’m not working
  • Speaking to my folks every Sunday

Quite frankly the list could go on and on. I am clearly a creature of habit. If I’m brutally honest I’ve always thought that this is a bad thing about myself. I’m stuck in my ways, I’m not good with change and I don’t like to deviate from my norm. After reading James Clear though I’ve started to view things a little bit differently. I’ve realised that a lot of the habits I have in place are really good ones. As I do the same things at the same time every day I don’t have to think about them. I’ve been doing my physio exercises for my neck for about fifteen years since I had a trapped nerve. I don’t give it any thought. I’m in the shower and I do my exercises. I’m pretty sure if I had to make myself do those exercises it wouldn’t happen, but as it is no will power whatsoever is requited. Similarly if it’s 9.30 on a Saturday (9am in England) and I’m not at work I’ll be in a park somewhere lining up to run 5k. No needing to make myself go out for a run. It’s a non negotiable in my life. Saturdays are parkrun days.

Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

I’ve realised that a lot of the things I do in my life are because of how I view myself. I don’t run for exercise or because it’s good for me, I run because I’m a runner (and I like to eat). I realised recently that I’d stopped viewing myself as a healthy person, and as a result my eating habits had got pretty bad. I’d put on weight and I was generally eating a pretty poor diet. I had a word with myself, remembered that I’m health conscious and started to buy more healthy tasty food. As a result I’ve dropped half a stone without really trying. My new mantra is that I’m eating for health not for weight. It’s all about making consistently healthy lifestyle choices. And a lot of that is all about automating my choices. Not having chocolate in the house, but instead plenty of fruit and veg.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

I think for me probably a combination of goals and habits works quite well. I really enjoy the whole thing of setting goals and seeing myself making progress towards them. In all honesty though every time I achieve a goal it’s because I’ve implemented good habits. My most recent habit I’ve introduced is meditation. I’ve always thought it wasn’t really active enough for me and that it wouldn’t suit me. After my recent mental health struggles though I was willing to give anything a go. Of course I set myself a goal around this of completing all the Headspace beginner courses. I’m well on track to achieve that, but I think that’s probably because I’ve instigated a habit of meditating every morning after breakfast and before I start work. So for me I think I probably need the dopamine hit of ticking things off my To Do list whilst working towards my goals, but it’s the habits that I implement that are going to get me to where I want to be.

More Treat Than Trick For Me This October

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I use that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.

Debts

Mortgage £90,408.16 (£90,900.44)

Assets

Cash £28,252.00 (£28,202.74)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s £16,754.95 (£15,346.81)

Shares £80,026.26 (£73,460.94)

House £269,000 (£269,000)

Total £531,619.21 (£523,596.49)

Net Worth including house equity

£531,619.21 – £90,408.16 = £441,211.05 (£432,696.05)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£16,754.95 – £90,408.16 = -£73,653.21 (-£75,553.63)

That’s a very pleasing set of figures. The markets very kindly did a big jump up just as I was working my monthly figures out. I’m very happy with that increase in the value of my shares. Of course since then the work share price has dropped again a bit, so next month’s figures might not be quite so impressive. For now though I’m happy with the increase. Nice to see the chunk of money that I put in from dividends and the sale of some of the work shares doing so well.

I always like to have arbitrary targets to aim for, just to break up the monotony of striving for FIRE. There’s a few coming up that I have in my sights. My mortgage will duck under £90k next month. Still far too high for me to feel complacent about, but I can see my plan working of paying into my AVC fund rather than overpaying my mortgage. Saying that, all this talk of increasing interest rates is making me somewhat jittery, but in the grand scheme of things rates are not likely to change enough for me to adjust my strategy. Investment wise I’ve got £45k in my Vanguard account, and it will be nice to see that hit £50k. And when I combine my shares and AVC fund I’m just shy of £97k. It will be lovely to hit £100k as psychologically that is such a big barrier. A few things there for me to reach in the hopefully not too distant future.

I didn’t set myself any goals for October and I’m going to continue in that vein for November too. I’ve got an ongoing battle with my mental health, which is taking all my focus for now. I made some really good progress this month, returning to work on a phased return. I’m back to full time hours from next week and and back on the phones then too speaking to customers again. It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride getting back to work, but it’s an important step in me learning to live with this anxiety for the time being until I hopefully get back on a bit more of an even keel.

The main thing want to focus on is my health again. The positive that I can take from the difficulties I’ve been having is that I am really drilling down on what is important for my health. I’ve talked a fair bit over the last few years about how important I feel sleep is for our health. That belief hasn’t always translated into me actually going to bed early, but I certainly have recognised how much better I feel when I get more sleep. Getting enough sleep is no longer an optional extra for me. A combination of my feelings and the medication I’m taking are making me absolutely exhausted. It gets to 8.00 and I’m thinking “how soon can I go to bed?” I’m sure I won’t always feel like this, but for now sleep is absolutely crucial for me. I use a sleep tracker and during October there were only four nights where I didn’t get at least eight hours sleep. I’m still exhausted all the time, but at least I’m giving my body the best possible chance to deal with everything that is going on.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Similarly my eating is going really well. Again this is something I have repeatedly set myself goals around. My weight has fluctuated my entire life, and whilst most people would say I was slim and not notice when I put weight on, for me it’s been a big issue. For now I am not beating myself up about what I eat, but I am focussing on eating plenty of fruit and veg and avoiding sweet food. Without really trying I have lost a reasonable amount of weight. I’m only a couple of pounds away from the lowest my weight ever goes. I feel trim and most importantly it’s not feeling like a struggle. I didn’t consciously set out to lose weight. It sounds ridiculous, but I just started buying more nice healthy food and stopped buying myself sweet treats. We’ll see if I can keep this up once I’m back to dealing with customers all day long and working full time hours. I’m quietly confident. It feels like something has changed. I’m eating for my health rather than for my weight. Of course it could just be stress and the medications causing me to lose weight, but hopefully not.

Photo by Foodie Factor on Pexels.com

My running on the other hand is not going so great. I’m still going out, but only for 3 or 4 miles at a time. Since I went on Prozac I don’t seem to be able to run to save my life. My legs feel sluggish and the anxiety is causing me difficulties in regulating my breathing. It seems unbelievable that I managed to pull the Great North Run out of the bag just back in September. I’m not going to worry too much about this. I don’t have any races until May. I’m treating running as a form of therapy just now. My fabulous running friends (well, you know they are actual friends but we met through running and it’s our favourite thing to do together) are making sure that I get out so that I get some exercise and chat about how I’m feeling. They really are outstanding.

I’ve got a couple of trips out this month. I’m through to Edinburgh with one of the kids for a symphony concert and I also have some comedy to go to with a night out to see Chris Ramsey with one of my friends. It’s nice to have a couple of things to look forward to, and I might even get my favourite boots re-heeled, and possibly even my first haircut in over a year. I’m hoping that’s a sign that I’m starting to feel a bit better and ready to start participating in the world again. Here’s hoping!

Mental Health Maelstrom

This is going to be hard to write. I’m not someone who likes to talk about how they feel. I’m a grit your teeth and get on with it sort of girl. Even I have come to recognise that is not always the best way to deal with things though. Mental health is talked about everywhere now it seems. Somehow though that doesn’t make it any easier to talk about when it’s you that’s struggling. Here goes though.

I’ve just gone back to work this week after seven weeks off with stress. I’m taking Prozac, and when I need them beta blockers to help with the anxiety. I’ve had weeks where I’ve been unable to move off the couch and have slept for days at a time. I’ve been sat watching telly feeling unbearably anxious, and thinking to myself “What am I worrying about, I’m just sat in my lounge and I don’t have to do anything?” Being logical about it has made absolutely no difference though. Turns out you can’t reason your way out of mental health issues.

If I’m being brutally honest then I’ve been feeling like this for a long time, I just hadn’t acknowledged to myself and certainly not to anybody else how I was feeling. Everything built up until I realised that I just wasn’t able to cope any more. There was no massive melt down, just a realisation that I couldn’t go on for a second longer with things as they were.

From the reading that I’ve been doing it sounds like I got lucky with my doctor. I hardly had to say anything to her and she seemed to know exactly how I was feeling. She realised how reluctant I was to take medication, so she took me down that route very slowly over a number of weeks. As I’m a woman of a certain age, then inevitably the M word came up. Who knew the menopause could have such far reaching consequences? The jury is still out on if that’s what’s causing my anxiety, so for now I’m resisting HRT, but it’s good to know it’s there if I decide I need it. You’ve got to love a doctor who suggests you watch a Davina McCall documentary on the menopause as part of your research.

The good news is that I’m starting to feel a bit better. I have good days and bad days, but thankfully I think the good days are starting to dominate. I have some strategies for coping when it all becomes too much for me. Deep breathing is my friend, and as always YouTube has been invaluable for finding suitable relaxation exercises. The brain fog and memory issues are starting to diminish, just as the doctor promised taking the Prozac would do. I no longer worry that I’m getting early onset dementia as a result of the ridiculous memory lapses. Other random things have also disappeared, like being convinced I was going to get run over crossing a road when I was out running. It was like a light bulb going off when I read a list of symptoms of stress. Tick, tick, tick, I think I pretty much had them all.

My checking of my spreadsheets had got beyond a joke. I didn’t feel like I could keep working for a second longer, I just didn’t have it in me. I’d like to say that my emergency fund and my investments gave me peace of mind that I could just walk away, but honestly that’s not how it worked for me. I knew how far from FIRE I was and what the implications of walking away nine years early would be. I’m hoping that I can get a slightly better balance in my life. I am still absolutely working towards FIRE, but I’ve realised that I also need to live my life. FIRE isn’t going to solve all of my problems, and I shouldn’t expect it to.

So what’s next for me? I’m on a phased return to work, building up over the next three weeks to full time hours. Work have been great with me and I’m taking things very slowly whilst I get back in the swing of things. I’m going to try and be a bit more relaxed, in particular about work. I’m going to prioritise my health. Getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising are going to be crucial to get me though this I think. As is the help of good friends, which I’ve discovered I’m very blessed with. It’s so true that it’s when things go wrong that you discover who’s really there for you.

Struggling like this has given a new found appreciation of how difficult these issues can be to deal with. Although I knew logically that mental health wasn’t something you could control, I didn’t properly understand that until it happened to me. Hopefully this will make me more understanding and better able to support the people in my life who have difficulties with their mental health. It’s a tough way to learn to be more empathetic, but at least that’s something positive that I can take away from this whole experience.

Running the Great North Run and September Net Worth

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I use that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.

Debts

Mortgage £90,900.44 (£91,392.92)

Assets

Cash £28,202.74 (£29,026.93)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £15,346.81 (£15,431.04)

Shares £73,460.94 (£71,318.81)

House £269,000 (£269,000)

Total £523,596.49 (£515,430.38)

Net Worth including house equity

£523,596.49 – £90,900.44 = £432,696.05 (£424,037.46)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£15,346.81 – £90,900.44 = -£75,553.63 (-£75,961.88)

There’s a few things to say about these figures. I received some dividends on my work shares which I reinvested in index trackers. I also finally bit the bullet and sold a chunk of my work shares and reinvested the money in my Vanguard account. Work does a share match scheme which I’ve been doing since it was introduced years ago. If you keep them for five years you get free shares and they are tax and NI free. I sold about £4k worth, which was all of them which I could get rid of without having any tax and NI implications. The cost to sell is on a percentage basis as you’d expect, with a minimum charge of £20, so selling this many made sense as it cost me the same to sell this many as it would have done to get rid of a smaller amount. Also the amount I then put into my Stocks and Shares ISA means that by the end of the tax year I will have filled my tax free allowance. Happy days.

I topped up both the dividend money and the share sale cash with some money from my current account so it was a nice round figure I was putting in. As a result my cash amount is down slightly, but with more than enough there for an emergency buffer. I’ve still got too many work shares, but it certainly feels good to have made a start on diversifying. I’ll not be doing any more this tax year, but the plan it to repeat this process in subsequent years. I have one load of the work shares in a S&S ISA, which I might keep just in case they go back to their old levels, but the plan is to keep moving more over to my Vanguard account. We’ll see what happens to the markets, but I’m reasonably happy with my timing of this shuffling around. The work share price was not too bad, and as we know the markets generally are pretty rubbish, so hopefully I’ve bought index trackers whilst they were on sale. Time will tell, but either way I’m happy with the strategy.

My annual statement is out for my Defined Benefits pension and so my annual amount that I’ve accrued has increased. This is now reflecting in my figures above. It’s nice to see it increasing, but frankly it’s slow progress. I’ve only got 9 years to go until my official retirement age, but they really seem to penalise you if you go early. I’m sure there’s some jiggery pokery I can do nearer the time with going part time if I can afford it to keep me hanging on right till the bitter end.

Not much else to say I don’t think. Things are just plodding on, mostly in the right direction. My AVC fund is slightly down, which is annoying, but in the grand scheme of things not the end of the world. Everything is taking a long time to get to where I want them to be, but I think I just need to get used to that fact.

I didn’t really set myself any goals for September. I wanted to complete the Great North Run and try and sort my mental health out, which has taken a bit of a battering. I did complete the Great North Run. I had a fantastic day and was really pleased with my time. I was aiming for around 2 and a half hours, and I managed to sneak under 2 hours 10 minutes. It wasn’t a PB, but I felt really strong and I absolutely loved it. It was strange not finishing in South Shields due to a Covid forced change of route, but it was brilliant getting to run over the Tyne Bridge twice and running through Newcastle city centre was really special. The consensus seemed to be that it was a harder course than normal due to the amount of hills at the end. It was very hilly, but I have to say I really enjoyed it. The support was brilliant as always and I managed to spot family and friends out on the course who had come out to support me. I’m already signed up for next year.

Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

As far as my mental health is concerned, that’s still a work in progress. We’re living in strange times, and I am finding that increasingly difficult to deal with. Things are not terrible, but they’re not great either. Hopefully I will start to feel better soon. In the meantime I’m incredibly grateful for the support of my family and friends. It’s really true that it’s when things are tough you find out who’s really there for you. Having never really had to deal with mental health issues before I’m gaining an appreciation of what so many people have to live with.

Now is not the time for me to be setting goals for myself. I’m trying to eat healthy foods, I’m sleeping loads and I’m trying to get out running a couple of times a week. I’m learning a bit of Russian in a half hearted fashion and spending time with my youngest before he goes off to uni next year. That’s enough for now. I will get back to smashing my goals, but for the rest of 2021 health is the priority and not putting any unnecessary stress on myself.

Walking, Running and Steam Train Travelling My Way Through My 60 for 60 List

When I turned 50 last year I set myself up a list of things I wanted to achieve by the time I was 60. I tried to put a mixture of things on there. So there’s some FIRE goals, plenty of running related things and a good sprinkling of travel adventures in there. The challenge was always going to be balancing reaching FIRE with paying for these experiences. Luckily I have pretty frugal tastes, so a lot of the things on my list are either free or pretty cheap. Not so much the travel ones, but I’m hopeful I can get those done without breaking the bank.

It’s been a year since I first wrote my list, so it’s time to do an update on how I’m getting on with ticking things off. This was always going to be a fluid list. Ten years is quite a long time, and I’ve no interest in ticking something off a list that I’m no longer interested in doing. I imagine as time passes it will become obvious that I’m not going to get to some of the things on the list, either because of money or just running out of time. That’s where the 70 for 70 list that I’m already mentally planning comes in!

By my ready reckoning with 60 things to do in ten years I need to be something every two months to be on track. This really wasn’t possible during lockdown, so I had some catching up to do. Of course there are some things that I’m working on that will take years to complete, and it’s just a question of keep plugging away.

Here’s my updated list showing what I’ve done and replacing some original goals with new ones.

  1. Vogrie parkrun DONE A lovely run in a gorgeous setting, and with the bonus of getting me a V for my parkrun alphabet challenge.
  2. South Shields parkrun
  3. Gibside parkrun Whinlatter parkrun. Sadly Gibside parkrun didn’t return after lockdown, but Whinlatter in the Lake District is supposed to be equally beautiful and just as brutal.
  4. Run a marathon (Again, but made a better job of it than I did last time) I have signed up for the Stirling marathon. It was supposed to be in October, but Covid has forced a delay until May next year. That gives my plenty of time for training. Yikes!
  5. Do an ultra
  6. Do a triathlon
  7. Become a parkrun tourist DONE
  8. Do parkrun A-Z I’m getting there. I still need an A, I, Q,R,U,Y and Z. I have a plan for all of those.
  9. Do the Granada half marathon
  10. Do 100 parkruns I’ve done 81 parkruns in total now, so I’m well on my way.
  11. Do 250 parkruns
  12. Volunteer 25 times at parkrun
  13. Run the Road to the Isles half marathon
  14. Do the Kielder Dark Skies run
  15. Do the Chariots of Fire race
  16. Do a parkrun abroad Probably combine this one with getting a Z for my alphabet challenge.
  17. Walk up Arthur’s Seat
  18. Walk the West Highland Way
  19. Cycle around Loch Leven
  20. Run the Loch Leven half marathon
  21. Learn a ballroom dance
  22. Finish the Duolingo Spanish tree I’m making very slow progress on this one.
  23. Write a book
  24. Do some volunteering
  25. Become mortgage neutral DONE. I don’t even think about this any more, but I was so happy to achieve this.
  26. Get my AVC fund to £50k
  27. Get my Equities fund to £125k
  28. Pay off my mortgage
  29. Go part time at work
  30. Retire
  31. Learn to do the 3×3 cube without notes (again, and don’t forget how to do it this time)
  32. Do the cube in under 1 minute 30 seconds
  33. Climb Ben Nevis The plan is to do this next summer with my brother and sister.
  34. Climb Scafell DONE. I did this over the summer with my brother and sister. Absolutely loved it.
  35. Climb Snowden Same as Ben Nevis, we’re planning to do this next summer
  36. Get the en suite done Dull, dull, dull. Don’t know what I was thinking with 36-39. Swim in a waterfall is the much more exciting replacement. I did a taster session on wild water swimming earlier in the year and I really loved it.
  37. Get the kitchen done Go wild camping. I’m starting to put together a lighweight camping kit as all my stuff is fine for camping with a car, but a bit heavy for hiking to beautiful spots. That’s my next few birthday and christmas presents sorted!
  38. Get the bathroom done Hike the Hadrians Wall walk. My sister and I are going to do this. We walked part of it in the summer, but it would be great to do the whole thing, and the plan is to wild camp to keep the costs down and kill two birds with one stone in terms of me ticking things off my list. We’re currently thinking the summer of 2023 for this one.
  39. Get new carpets Walk around Kielder reservoir. DONE. I did this over the summer with my brother and sister. I absolutely loved doing this. The 26 miles almost finished me off, but it was such a great walk.
  40. Go to Italy
  41. Visit Copenhagen
  42. Go to Russia This is in the planning stages just now. I’m hoping to go there next year with the kids. I originally was thinking that an organised tour would be a good idea as Russia just seems so unknown. Looking at the prices though I quickly decided against that. The current thinking is go for a week, splitting our time between Moscow and St Petersburg. We’re all trying to learn a bit of Russian just now. My older brain is taking a while to absorb the alphabet, but I love the sound of the language, so it would be great to be able to speak it a bit.
  43. Go back to Cuba
  44. Do a tour of the Scottish Islands
  45. Go camping in Europe
  46. Go to the Alhambra in Granada (again, but I love it there)
  47. Go to the German Christmas markets in Germany rather than Edinburgh
  48. Do a trip in a campervan
  49. Go to San Sebastián
  50. Go to Cyprus Swim in a tidal pool. We have a few in Fife and they look fantastic.
  51. Go to Canada
  52. See the Northern Lights
  53. Have a trip on the Jacobite Express DONE. The folks and I had a trip to Fort William earlier this year. The Harry Potter train most definitely did not disappoint. Fantastic scenery, and the whole day was just perfect.
  54. Stay in a wigwam
  55. Go white water rafting
  56. Watch the Graham Norton show being filmed
  57. Go out for a really good breakfast
  58. Go to a TEDx event
  59. Visit London
  60. Go to Gairloch and my favourite ever campsite DONE. I managed four days camping there during the summer. It was so great to be back and it’s just as beautiful as I remembered.
Photo by Gantas Vaiu010diulu0117nas on Pexels.com

I’m very happy with what I’ve managed to get done over the last year or so. I’ve ticked seven things off my list, so am right on track for getting everything done by the time I’m sixty. Of course all the expensive stuff is still to do, but I’ll worry about that a bit further down the line. Worse case scenario I might need to shift some things to my 70 for 70 list when that gets up and running.