Resolutions

It’s that time of year again. Time to sort out my life and make lots of unrealistic resolutions. Actually that’s not really how I roll. Although I do seem to have yet again become a professional chocolate eater over the Christmas period, so pretty soon I’m going to have to do something about the tightness of my jeans by either eating a bit less and running a bit more, or buying new jeans. Hopefully not the latter option.

The last few years I’ve tried to make positive rather than negative resolutions. So last year was all about trying to get more sleep. Considering how much I love to sleep this should be a really easy one for me. I’ve even put an app on my phone that gets very passive aggressive with me when I’m ignoring it’s entreaties for me to go to bed yet again. And yet still every work lunchtime finds me in my car with the seat right back having a 20 minute power nap. I’m getting a bit better I think. I’m probably getting closer to 7 hours a night rather than the 6 hours it used to be. Maybe this year will be when I get to a solid 8 hours a night. I’m sure I could make much more progress on my goals if I wasn’t so exhausted all the time.

Two years ago I had some great resolutions. I had already got back into running after a 20 year plus hiatus, I was training regularly and had done quite a few races, including some half marathons and one full marathon. I was loving it, but felt that I really needed to find some people to run with. So I decided in the new year that I wanted to start doing Parkrun and to join a running club. I have to say they were the most beneficial resolutions I have ever made. I work every second Saturday, but when I’m not working, 9.30 will find me at my local Parkrun. On Christmas day I completed my 45th Parkrun, so I’m within sprinting distance of my 50 milestone when I’ll qualify for my free Tshirt. My kids give me a row when everywhere I go I try to recruit people to Parkrun, but seriously give it a go. It’s so friendly and inclusive (and free!) A 5km run is a lovely way to kickstart the weekend. I also joined my local Jog Scotland group. Again it’s really friendly and caters for all abilities. I’ve made some great friends through both Parkrun and Jog Scotland, and I now have some brilliant friends to run with. We’re usually so busy chatting that we barely notice the running. I really want to join another running club too that will give me access to some more intensive training sessions, so that’s a resolution for this year. I’ve been putting it off as I’m not sure I’m good enough, but I guess I’ll only start improving when I get out of my comfort zone. There’s also a really scary 5km vertical run up a mountain in September that even just the thought of is seriously terrifying me. That’s probably a really good sign that I should go for it. When they mention danger of serious injury and death in the terms and conditions then you know it’s a properly hard core race.

I’m a great believer that you can only really focus on a couple of areas of your life at one time. I usually find that when one thing is going really well my concentration slips in other areas. The trouble is there’s always so many things I’m keen to work on. I did loads of extra things above and beyond my actual job title at work in 2018, so I’m really hoping that will be reflected in my performance rating for the year, which will directly influence my bonus and payrise. I really need to decide once and for all what I want to do work wise. There’s some very compelling arguments to be made for staying with the same company. I think that’s why I’ve hung around so long. I’m managing to do enough things that really interest me but that aren’t actually anything to do with my job title to keep myself interested enough to stick around. I go back and forwards on staying with the same company but looking for an internal move. The problem I have with that is I have great working hours of 8-4(although I could do without the weekend working) and it’s 15 minutes from home to desk. The thought of potentially brutal shifts and an expensive (in terms of both time and money) commute really puts me off. I go through spells of looking, but then get lazy. Also I’m well thought of in my current department and work with a great bunch of people, which again makes me reluctant to leave. I think at the very least I need to explore the possibilities and see about earning some more money this year.

Finance wise I want to get my head down and keep overpaying my mortgage. I think the easiest way to organise your finances is to automate your plans so that you don’t have to make a conscious decision every month about what to do with your money. The old adage of pay yourself first has got a lot of merit to it. My sharesaves come off before I see any of my money, and my mortgage overpayment comes out like clockwork shortly after payday each month. I’ve got my budgets all set up, and it’s that time of year again to get all my budgeting spreadsheets ready to go again. I like to get myself hunkered down for a few hours and organise my finances for the year to come. It’s one of my favourite things about the new year.

There’ll likely be a few changes to the finances coming up this year. Maths Boy is hoping to head off to university this year if he gets his first choice of university. He’ll only be 16, so he may wait another year if he doesn’t get in where he wants to. I’ve definitely got mixed feelings about him heading out into the world at such a young age, but what can you do? I’m not quite sure how that’s going to impact my finances. I get maintenance for him and his brother from their dad, but I never went down the CSA route. I didn’t want to be screwing him for every penny I could, so we just agreed to an amount. I have to say we’ve managed to be incredibly amicable, which was what I wanted for the kids. I’ve missed out on a lot of money that I could have had from him over the years as he’s done incredibly well for himself in the years since we split, but for me that’s much less important than being able to still get on with the father of my children. I can’t quite work out if I’ll be better off when the kids leave home in terms of fewer costs, or if losing maintenance payments, child benefit and a small amount of child tax credits will make things more difficult. Time will tell.

I need to sit down and work out my net worth again, as it’s a while since I’ve done that. The kids are away this weekend and I’m not working, so maybe I’ll get a bit productive and have a good hard look at my finances. I’m already looking forward to seeing what 2019 brings. I’ll focus on deciding what I’m going to do with my work situation, join a new running club and hope to reap the benefits from that. I need to be averaging 7 hours sleep a night so I’ve got enough energy for everything I want to do. Oh, and of course see how I get on with this blog. Lots to do and probably not enough hours in the day, but I’ll do my best. There’s lots to look forward to and lots of work to be done to try and get myself a bit closer to FIRE. 

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About Me

I’m a 48 year old single mum living in Scotland who moved here back in 2000. The details are a bit blurry in my memory, but there was definitely a man involved. One marriage, two children and one divorce later, the man is most definitely an ex now, but the love affair with Scotland continues. This is home for me now. Divorce is hard on the finances, there’s no doubt about that. We split when the kids were tiny, so it was a long hard slog juggling childcare, working part time and paying the bills. I’ve worked in financial services for the same company since I moved up here, but not in a high paying sort of job. Five years ago I managed to manoeuvre myself into a job with that same company working full time and earning a lot more than I had been. Saying that, my salary now has only just nudged over the £30k mark, so we’re most definitely not talking big bucks here.

 My main focus for a lot of years was paying as much of my mortgage off as I could. When I took out my first post-divorce mortgage back in 2006 interest rates were a lot higher than they are now. I’m lucky enough to have a base rate staff mortgage, which is great, but it does somewhat suck you in and make you very reluctant to leave. As interest rates dropped, I just kept paying the same amount to my mortgage and I loved checking my balance and seeing it coming down. I was torn about what to do with the house. We just about had enough room where we were, and if we stayed put the mortgage would have been cleared by the time I was in my mid-fifties. I really wanted more space though. I’m pretty sure my kids are going to be living far away from here when they fly the nest. Maths Boy has already applied to mostly English universities, despite my dire warnings of student debt if he goes south of the border. To be fair, his dream is studying in Cambridge, and I don’t want to be the one to rain on his parade. Coding Boy thinks his future lies over the water in America. Whatever happens, they both have really clear ideas about what they want to do with their lives and careers, and Scotland doesn’t seem to feature all that much in those dreams. So, I wanted a big enough house for them to be able to come home to stay whenever they wanted. I’ve got that now, but unfortunately I’ve also got the mortgage to go with it. I’m overpaying again, but effectively I’ve started my mortgage afresh. Even at the current low interest rates I’m going to be 62 before I’m done with it.

I’ve become a bit obsessed with FIRE blogs over the last few years. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time reading them and feeling that I should be doing more to sort my finances. I’ve got budgets set up for everything with a corresponding spreadsheet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m most definitely not a Mr Money Moustache, but I do alright with the money I have coming in. At the end of the day you have to live a bit too. Time just seems to keep ticking away though and I don’t seem to get much closer to FIRE. I’ve come to the conclusion that rather than trimming the fat any more, what I really need to do is increase my income. That’s easier said than done though.

 I go round and round in circles trying to work out what to do for the best. I know I need to get my mortgage paid off and increase my pension and passive income so that I can afford to retire at some point. I have a defined benefits pension, which unfortunately got capped when I was working part time and earning £10k less than I am now. So basically me going full time and getting a pay rise hasn’t helped my pension any.

 At 60 my pension will be about £10,000 a year. I’ve worked out that without a mortgage or any work related costs I can live on about £15,000 a year. Of course I need to take inflation into account, but when I’m retired I won’t have two teenagers eating me out of house and home. I’ve got about £1500 a year coming in from dividends just now, which I reinvest. Rather foolishly though that all comes from shares in the company I work for. The plan is to change that. In 2020 and 2021 I have Share Save plans maturing, and I’ll just take the money from them and invest it in something else. Index trackers seem to be the sensible route to go down.  Most of the shares I own just now are in ISA’s, so I’ll probably just leave those well alone.  Any not safe from tax I’ll sell (when share prices are not quite so dire) and either pay off some more of the mortgage or put the money into index trackers.  At this stage my goal is to retire at 60. Not exactly early, but much better than it could be. The dream scenario is to quit my job in my fifties, but I think that’s going to be a tough ask. The key is going to be to increase what I’m earning. I think you can only reduce your expenses so far. I definitely could cut costs, but the question is would I want to. I don’t want to look back on my life and think that I’ve not spent money on experiences that could have enhanced my life. I think that Minimalism has a lot to offer in this regards. For me it’s all about the people and experiences in my life, not about the stuff. Saying that, I really want to be financially independent and have the choice about what I want to do work wise.  Having a separate source of flexible income that I could continue when I retire from the traditional 9-5 grind is the way to go. Watch this space as they say.