The Lottery of Life

I was driving to work the other day thinking about all the productive things I wanted to get done once the working day was over and done with. Suddenly I started to think about what would happen if I won a life changing amount on the lottery. Now I’d be quite surprised if that happened, on the basis that I don’t actually do the lottery. I used to play with husband number one when it first started. I remember watching the lottery show as they drew the numbers. It was a double roll over, so we were excitedly watching thinking this could be the answer to our lack of money problems. We watched with increasing excitement as the first four numbers out were ours. We were going to be rich beyond our wildest dreams. Or maybe not. Four numbers was as far as it went. A measly eighty pounds or so came our way. That was it for me. The joy of the lottery was ruined. I was never interested in a bit of extra cash to splash. I wanted to have my life changed. So I haven’t played the lottery since that day.

Anyway, let’s run with the lottery winning scenario. Or it could be an inheritance or some other unexpected windfall. It happens all the time in the films, but I guess it must happen in real life too. On face value it sounds fantastic. We’re all working away towards FIRE, trying not to get too obsessive about it, but probably failing miserably. You try to make sure you savour every moment of life as it’s all about the journey, not just about the final destination (which let’s be honest, ultimately is death, so probably not a great thing to focus too much on). But anyway, we’re all working away trying to grow our income, spend less than we earn and invest the difference. We look for ways to cut our costs and develop side hustles to bring in extra cash. We read blogs and listen to podcasts to get ideas from other people who are on their way to FIRE, and try and emulate those who’ve already hit their magical number and are living the dream.

So on the face of it suddenly coming in to a big dollop of cash that gets us to FIRE is a wonderful thing. No longer will we have to scrimp and save (although actually I think this becomes an ingrained habit that would be pretty difficult to be able or want to break) and we’ll be able to walk down the happy path to early retirement. But thinking about it seriously I’m honestly not sure how I would feel about that. I really like to work for things, and striving to achieve something is usually more rewarding than the actual moment of getting what you want. Maybe I’m just not quite enough of a stop and smell the roses type of girl. Maybe that’s something for me to work on. By the time I get towards the point where I’m about to achieve a goal I’m already planning the next thing that I want to work towards.

So if I was handed FIRE on a plate would I feel cheated of the achievement of reaching there by my own endeavours? It’s possible. I think there would most likely be a significant period of readjustment involved. Although actually thinking about it, I wonder if that is likely to happen even if you’ve got to FIRE through your own volition. It must be a little strange to be working away getting your finances to a point where you can choose your own work situation and then get to where you’re just needing to maintain your money and in fact are having to spend it to support yourself. No matter how much you’ve managed to accumulate I imagine it must go against the grain to be dipping in to your money. Clearly that’s what it’s there for, but still it can’t be an easy shift of mind set. 

I can’t quite make my mind up if reaching FIRE is going to be this euphoric moment, with a metaphorical throwing things in the air and skipping off in to the sunset, or if there will be a bit more soul searching involved and quite frankly a period of depression whilst adjusting to the new frame of mind needed to enjoy your new found freedom. Maybe a mixture of the two. Maybe a halfway house is a good way to try and smooth the transition. I’ve been thinking about this route quite a bit recently, and what FIRE can realistically look like for me.

I think I’m pretty much at the point where I’m fairly certain I’ll be fine to retire at 60. I think I need a new acronym to describe my quest. Financial Independence retire a tiny bit earlier than some of the population(FIRATBETSOTP – catchy eh?) So this is hardly ground breaking, but it’s a better position than I was in before I stumbled upon FIRE – so that’s all to the good. My plan now is to be able to change my life around the time I’m 55 (so just over 6 years away). If I can get the bulk of my mortgage paid off by then (it’s quite a big ask, but I’m really going for it) I’ll be in a much better position to be able to reduce the income that I need to live off. My current thinking is that maybe part time working at that point might work quite well for me. A four or even better a three day working week sounds pretty civilised to me. That would give me time to adjust to a life that didn’t revolve so completely around work.

I think I’m pretty good at making use of my free time just now. I have a nice mixture of running, family time, friends, FIRE stuff, boxsets, cooking etc etc. Quite frankly there just aren’t enough hours in the week. Part time work and then eventually no time work will free up plenty of extra time for me to expand the time I spend doing things that I love. Thinking about that timeline though it’s quite likely that around the time I would be hoping to reduce my working hours is probably the time I’m quite likely to be experiencing empty nest syndrome with the kids leaving home. Although I often crave more time to myself, I imagine having the house to myself is going to be pretty tough to deal with. So that’s going to be an extra dynamic to contend with.

I do think that easing yourself out of the workplace is probably not a bad idea. Maybe not quite as dramatic as going in to work one day and handing your notice in just because you can, but maybe a slightly healthier way to do it. I remember when my dad retired a few years ago there was a definite period of adjustment for him. It can be tough to go from a full on working life being constantly busy, to suddenly having all the time to do what you want. Saying that, now when I speak to my folks they’re always out and about doing things and seem to have lots of projects on the go.

As well as dealing with how to fill your time post FIRE, I guess there will also be an element of your identity being tied up with your work to a certain extent. I would hope that us FIRE folks are in a slightly better position than others in this respect. We know that we have an end goal in mind and that work is a means to an end. Now saying that, we still have to actually be present at work and it’s easy to get caught up in all the nonsense that happens. Office politics anyone? No, I can’t be bothered with it either, but it is so easy to get sucked in to that rubbish.

Work has always been an important part of my life. I wouldn’t say I’ve particularly enjoyed the jobs that I’ve had over the years, but I’ve always taken pride in doing my jobs well and being a hard worker. I’d like to think that I’m professional and conscientious, and that’s very much a part of how I think of myself as a person. If I’m no longer working do I just lose that part of my identity? I’m guessing not. I would imagine that part of your personality just carries on with whatever projects you decide to fill your post FIRE life with.

When I was heading out for lunch the other day at work I overheard a conversation in the corridor. There had obviously been some sort of team training session going on where they’d been asking people about why they come to work. One of them said to the other “Am I allowed to say that I’m just here for the money?” I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t have been a massive shock to the person running the session to hear that money is a motivating factor in getting people to work in the morning. The majority of people have bills to pay and work is the way that we get the money to keep the wolf from the door. But it got me thinking. What is it that motivates me to keep coming in to work day after day, year after year?

So yes, money is definitely a factor. But I don’t have to work where I do or in that same job within that organisation. There must be more to it than the cold hard cash. And of course there is. So for me other monetary factors come in to play. So I’ve got my salary that I need to come to work to earn. But also I have my staff mortgage that is a massive factor in me keeping working for the same company. I love seeing my mortgage balance come down, and it wouldn’t be coming down nearly so quickly if I didn’t have such a beneficial mortgage rate.

The company share save schemes are a big thing for me too. I throw the maximum amount in to those and obsessively check the share price to see what I’m worth. I’ve talked before about how I have too much tied up with the company I work for, and I’m going to address that.  With the discount that gets applied to the share option price it’s definitely worth taking advantage of for me. So moving forward I hope to keep participating in the scheme, cash the shares in as soon as the scheme matures and invest the whole lot (including a hopefully sizeable profit) in low cost index tracker funds.

I also have my defined benefit pension scheme that keeps me locked in to the company. Although it’s not nearly as good as it could have been had it not been capped a number of years ago when my salary and working hours weren’t where they are now, it’s still worth £10k a year if I can stick it out to 60. The good thing too is that because it’s capped at what I was earning years ago, if I was to go part time further down the line I don’t think it would impact what I would get in the future too much. I need to check that out a bit more, but I reckon that could potentially work in my favour if I do want to go part time at 55.

So these perks of working for this particular company are what keep me where I am. Already a lot of these benefits are being phased out for people who joined later, so I imagine if I moved to another company I’m less likely to get these sorts of deals. Also, after 18 years working for the same company the thought of moving is somewhat terrifying. Although if they offered voluntary redundancy on the current terms I worked out that I’d get about £45k. I reckon I could face a bit of fear of the unknown for that sort of a pay-out.

So there are lots of financial reasons why I get out of bed in the morning. Of course other factors come in to play too. When the alarm goes off at 6 am I might not be delighted at the prospect of getting up, but I know I have customers that I don’t want to let down and colleagues that I don’t want to leave in the lurch by not turning up. In the longer term though I reckon I won’t feel any compunction in waving goodbye to those colleagues and leaving them to get on with it. After all, it’s their choice to fritter away their salary rather than investing for the future. Harsh maybe, but everybody makes choices in life that impact their future. For me a future without a 6am alarm call is most definitely worth spending less now.  Getting to a point where I can choose to get up early because I have exciting plans that I want to work on is more important to me than wasting my money now on distractions that don’t add value to my life.

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The Importance of Being Frugal

I normally do the Aldi shopping with my eldest. We’ve got it off to a fine art. He keeps me on track and away from the dangerous middle aisles. Running gear, power tools or a pizza oven anyone? Not that those things aren’t a bargain. They definitely are. But it’s only a bargain if you need it. So I get kept in check. We manage to stay within our budget, get a reasonable mix of food and a few treats thrown in for good measure.

Last week I ended up shopping with my youngest instead. That was a whole different experience. He was challenging me all the way round the shop. He was trying to take things out of the trolley as I was putting them in. Not that I didn’t appreciate his encouragement, but I really didn’t. I was trying to explain that it’s more cost effective to have a few nice things in the house to avoid ending up spending more on takeaways and chocolate runs to the convenient but expensive local shop.

I cook all our meals from scratch, there’s always plenty of fruit and veg in the trolley and a reasonable amount of meat too. I have a budget of £250 for the month for me and two teenage boys. This includes all the food for the month, cleaning supplies and toiletries. To be honest we usually only spend around £200 for the month and I quite often end up moving the surplus from the food budget to another budget that’s run over. I was explaining to him that this was a pretty frugal budget for what is essentially three adults. He disagreed. Vehemently.

I was thinking “Just you wait till you have to live in the real world mate and see how you get on”. Then I thought, is there maybe something I could learn from him and his fresh eyes on our budget? So when we got home he went through the receipt and crossed out what he thought we could do without. He was brutal. Now no doubt he was right. We could have survived on what he’d left on the receipt. Saying that though I’m not sure how sustainable his budget was. For me food is one of the great pleasures in life, and I don’t want to be going hungry just to hit a magic number in an excel spreadsheet. I’m pretty sure though that there is definitely some fat to be trimmed from our budgeting. And probably from my middle too, but that’s a whole other story!

Then he took it a step further. He worked out that he could bring the weekly food bill down to about £25. Now again, I’m not convinced of how practical this is on long term basis, but I was willing to indulge him. Plus I wanted to see where he was going with this. So he’s just cut at least £100 off our monthly food budget. His next question to me was if we put that towards the mortgage how many years does that reduce it by? That’s my boy! You know when you have those moments in life when you are just so incredibly proud of your kids and realise that although they may mock you for your FIRE aspirations, they are actually paying attention after all. So my 14 year old wants to know how much more quickly we can pay off the mortgage if he cuts the food budget for us. The answer to that question is about a year and a half. Maybe he’s on to something here. So I’m not quite sure I’m prepared for the sacrifice involved in cutting down the food budget so drastically, but I think there might well be some savings to be made and passed on to the mortgage payment. Food for thought, if you’ll excuse the pun.

So I think the moral of that particular story is that small changes we make can end up having quite a considerable impact on how quickly we can reach FIRE. I tend to think that I’m pretty frugal anyway, but maybe I’m not as good as I think I am. I was brought up to be careful with money and not waste it. My parents come from good working class stock in the north east of England. They got married in their early twenties and started a family. They rented their first flat in Newcastle, but by the time I came along they had bought their first house, having money for a deposit from compensation my dad got from an accident he had when he was a child.

Mum and dad both left school without any qualifications, which said more about the schooling on offer rather than their level of intelligence. Dad went to night class and ended up qualifying as an accountant. They took a chance when dad got offered a job in London and we moved down to the commuter belt. That’s where I grew up. I remember dad always working when I was growing up. He drove 40 miles in to London every day for his main job and every weekend he was busy working away at home on some sort of home working gig. Who knew side hustles were a thing even back then! At one point he was even working nights as a lecturer too. I honestly don’t know how he did it.

We eventually moved back home to Newcastle after 11 years living down south. My folks have done well for themselves with lots of hard work and a willingness to move around to follow the work. It was never really the done thing to talk about money when I was growing up, and I certainly had no idea about what sort of income was coming in. What I did know though was that you didn’t waste money. That’s set me up nicely with some good frugal habits that continue to this day.  

I’d like to think that I’ve continued down that path with my kids. They certainly know the value of money and how hard it is to earn it. If anything I sometimes worry that they think too much about saving money. I’m happy that they aren’t materialistic in the slightest, but I don’t want them to think that there’s never any value to be gained in spending money. Sometimes it is worthwhile to splash some cash on something that’s going to add value or joy to your life.

For me I think I’ve more or less got the basics covered in terms of not wasting money. I’m sure that there’s more that I could do, but because I’ve never really earned that much, I’ve always needed to be good at managing my money. I’ve always cooked from scratch, made up my lunch to take into work and tried to get the best deal on things that I do need to spend money on.

I occasionally find myself mentally totting up how much some of my colleagues must spend on coffee from Starbucks at work. This despite the fact that we get free hot drinks from the vending machines. I have a rule that I don’t buy anything at work. I always think that’s a slippery slope if I start buying chocolate from the machines. I’m at work to earn money, so the idea of spending money when I’m there seems totally ridiculous. It’s bad enough that I put petrol in my car to drive to work, despite the fact that I only live 3 miles away. What on earth would Mr Money Moustache say about that? Well, I know exactly what he’d say, but luckily I get to make my own rules about my spending. The alarm already goes off at 6am, so there’s no way on earth that I’m getting up earlier so I’ve got time to bike or run to work. That’s a step too far for me. Maybe one day, but not just yet.

I started taking advantage of a cashback site a year or so ago. I kept hearing about this idea of earning cashback on spending that you were doing anyway, but as it sounded too good to be true I assumed there must be some sort of a catch. What an idiot! All that cashback I’ve missed out on over the years. Once I discovered FIRE blogs I kept hearing more about these cashback sites and realised I’d most definitely been missing a trick. Of course now that I’m taking advantage of this I’m cutting my spending right back, so my opportunities to get cashback are a little limited. But there are always things that you need to spend money on, so when this is the case I might as well get some cash back for it. It’s a no brainer.

A case in point recently was when I was planning our summer holiday for this year. I’d asked the kids where they wanted to go, pretty much gave them free rein to tell me their dream destination and I would consider it. After much debating they came to the conclusion that their ideal holiday was a road trip around England. Ok. Not exactly quite what I had in mind, but the more I thought about it the better it sounded. So we’ve plotted a route and looked out budget hotels on the outskirts of the places we’re visiting to avoid the exorbitant car park charges. I was just starting to think about booking the hotels when an email pinged into my inbox with details of a 24 hour offer for 10% cashback on our chosen hotel chain. Kerching, thank you for playing. Don’t mind if I do. So the hotels are all booked now, cashback is winging its way to my bank account ready to put towards spending money for when we’re away. It’s not a huge amount, but as they say, every little helps. And speaking of that particular supermarket chain, we’ll be making use of the clubcard vouchers on holiday that they very kindly give me just for using my Tesco credit card every month for my day to day expenses. Paid off in full every month. Obviously.

This will be a bit of a different holiday for us this year. The last couple of years we’ve gone to Germany to visit a friend of mine. It’s always lovely to go over there and see her. It’s a bonus that she also lives in a beautiful place with a lake perfect for swimming in just across from her house. Flights are always cheap to get there, so it’s a fantastic holiday that costs next to nothing. Before that we always used to go camping, which again is a brilliant way to get an amazing holiday for next to nothing. Living in Scotland we never have to go too far to get to beautiful campsites. Although we always used to head way up north to stay next to drop dead gorgeous beaches. I really need to dust off the camping gear and head out again. I’m hoping that when I eventually reach FIRE I’ll be able to take advantage of lots of trips away. Camping trips and plenty of jaunts over to Germany are definitely something to aim for when I have a bit more time on my hands.

I think the moral of my recent experiences has been not to get complacent and think that I have all my frugal ducks in a row. I think I’m ok on the basics. I would never just automatically renew insurance etc without shopping around, I’m happy to threaten to move providers to get a better deal, I’m finally taking advantage of cashback sites, I’ve got budgets in place for absolutely everything and I don’t waste money on day to day spending. But just because I’m good compared to the people I see around me doesn’t mean I can’t improve. Five minutes online reading FIRE blogs will prove that to me. I’m a novice when it comes to saving money.  But I think that’s ok. I’m happy to learn, and also to recognise the things that I am prepared to compromise on and what’s a non- negotiable for me. That’s the wonderful thing about life. You get to design what you want yours to look like, both before and after FIRE.

eBay Escapades

So I’ve stumbled at the first fence at my attempt to raise some extra money from a side hustle. I’d read a book about how to make money from selling items on eBay. I didn’t exactly think this was going to be my path to riches beyond my wildest dreams, but I did hope I could sell off some unwanted things from my house, free up some space and raise some extra cash. So I started piling up some DVD’s and books that I no longer had any use for. I started slowly and listed 4 DVD’s over 2 nights. I had one bid already, only for £4.50, but you have to start somewhere. I then woke up this morning to an email from eBay saying that they had suspended my account as they were suspicious of activity on it. What, listing 4 DVD’s? It doesn’t look like there’s an appeal process at all, I’m just not allowed to buy or sell anything on eBay anymore. Hm, so that didn’t exactly go according to plan.

Clearly I’ll need to do a bit more investigating on this to see if there’s anything I can do to change the power that be’s minds on this. In the meantime though that seems to be the end of my eBay adventure. I’ll look into other ways of selling things to see if that’s going to be beneficial. I guess if nothing else it demonstrates the vulnerability of being too dependent on any one way of making a living. Obviously I’d not even got going with eBay, but imagine if I’d been a few years down the road with this experiment and this was making up a big part of my income. A valuable lesson in the importance of having a portfolio income, with money coming from a variety of sources.

I’m not feeling too down hearted about the lack of success in this first attempt at a side hustle. You have to start somewhere, and it’s not always going to go according to plan. I always think that it’s really easy to be positive when things are going well, it’s when life throws you a curveball that you see a person’s true character. It’s hard to keep battling away when you feel that you’re not making as much progress as you’d like to, but that’s when it’s really important to make sure you’re moving in the right direction, dig in and keep moving.  It’s easy to just give up and keep plodding along on the same old road without making any changes. But incremental changes and improvements can have a massive impact on your life. Yes, sometimes a huge change is needed, but other times it’s just a question of tweaking things somewhat to get where you want to be.

So I’ll keep trying to figure out how to bring in more income to bring me closer to FIRE. I’ve been putting in some good work recently researching side hustles. I’m looking at Matched Betting as a potential source of more income. Lots of the FIRE bloggers seem to do well with this, although let’s hope I don’t get gubbed from Matched Betting accounts quite as quickly as happened on eBay! I’m watching lots of You Tube videos about Matched Betting. I think I’ve more or less got my head around the basic idea, but I want to do some more research to ensure I fully understand it and don’t make too many stupid mistakes. I’ve got a week off in the Easter holidays, so the plan is to start Matched Betting then. I’ll have enough time to spend on it that hopefully I won’t be rushing and so mess up. In the meantime I’m going to keep researching Matched Betting, set up a new email especially for MB and probably a dedicated bank account to keep track of money from the MB side of things. 

I was training with my new running club last week when another running club turned up in the same part of the industrial estate where we were doing a session. We were basically both running up and down the same street at the same time but completing a totally different session. Awkward! But I’m pretty sure there’s more than one way to get good at running. It won’t be the same for everyone, and that’s ok. You find a group of people that you feel comfortable with and that you have confidence in getting you to where you want to be. As long as you’re improving and enjoying yourself then it’s all good. It got me thinking about FIRE though, and the many different ways that people achieve this.  I think most people can agree on the basics of FIRE. Spend less than you earn and invest the difference. That’s pretty much what it comes down to. After that it gets a little bit less simple though.

So, should you go down the extreme frugality route, counting every single last penny and forsaking anything that might bring you joy but involves the spending of money? Is it ok to have a car or is that the work of the devil? Or is it more important to increase your income rather than reduce your spending? I imagine that for a lot of people a combination of the two probably works quite well.

Should you feel guilty if you can’t manage the exacting standards of MMM et al? Well no, clearly not, and I don’t think most FIRE folks out there would think so either. I’m pretty sure that most bloggers out there don’t write to make people feel bad or indeed to shout about their achievements. It’s a way to document your journey, to keep yourself accountable, to engage with like-minded people and to share ideas.  Achieving FIRE will be unique for each person. Yes, there’ll be a recipe that you can follow of how people have already managed it. There’s no point reinventing the wheel. That’s why I love reading FIRE blogs, to find out how people have managed what I’m trying to achieve. But will a highly paid couple follow the same path as me as a single parent with two teenage boys to support? Unlikely. But you know what? That’s ok.

I love the idea of earning money from a rental property. I love to read blogs and listen to podcasts where people have done just that. I’ve started working some figures out and looking at flats locally to see if the figures add up. It’s all very exciting. Until I start to imagine how I’ll actually feel when I’m responsible for managing a property. Not to put too fine a point on it, stressed to the eyeballs is how I start to feel. I can’t quite work out why I feel like this, I just know that I do. I don’t imagine that this will change any time soon, so I’ve come to the conclusion that this route is not the right one for me. Maybe a bit further down the line I’ll feel a bit braver and will revisit some of my earlier ideas. But I guess that’s the exciting thing about life. Things change, and how you feel now isn’t necessarily how you’ll always feel.

So for me I think that paying off my mortgage and building up my assets through shares is the way to go. I need more income too. I know I keep banging on about it, but it’s going to be crucial in me achieving my goals. I’m starting to dream bigger. Before I was trying to get retired at 60. This was going to be a bit of a stretch for me, but I think I’ve got things in place now to make this happen. More or less. But actually, that’s not the extent of my dreams. As that quote goes “The greater danger for most of us isn’t that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it”.  Being financially independent at 55 will give me so much more scope to do what I want with my life. So maybe I won’t be fully retired in the traditional sense of the world. But so what. Even if was still working part time I would have so many more options with what I wanted to do. Definitely something for me to ponder.

I’ve realised that I’m really good at achieving my goals when I put my mind to it. It’s usually figuring out what I want to achieve that I have difficulty with. Any time in the past when I’ve had a really clear picture in my mind of what I want to achieve, I’ve reached my goal. In my early twenties I saw myself living in Spain, so I went to night classes to learn Spanish, used my fortnight holiday to do a training course on teaching English as a foreign language and secured myself a teaching job in Spain. It’s not always easy getting what you want, and it usually involves a fair amount of hard work, but you’re always glad when you succeed, no matter how things turn out in the end. It’s often the working towards things that’s the satisfying part.

So I think I need to work on what my particular picture of FIRE looks like. At the moment it’s a little bit blurry for me. I don’t quite yet feel like I have a clear destination in mind. Hopefully that will come with time. What I don’t want to do is to be getting the finances sorted but then have no idea what I want my life to be like. Drifting along is all well and good, and at times it can be just what’s needed, but for me I like to know what I’m aiming for so I can put my plans into action to get the life that is just right for me. It’s exciting stuff that’s for sure.

Find Your Pace and Settle In

I’ve done the Great North Run twice so far, and I’m doing it again this year. I remember a big banner on one of the flyovers last year which said something like “find your pace and settle in”. That became a bit of a mantra for me during that race. I got to a pace my body was more or less comfortable with, got my head down, got in the zone and got on with it. That worked pretty well for me. It seems to me that “find your pace and settle in” applies equally well to working towards FIRE. If I go too extreme then there’s a risk I’ll burn out and end up giving up. If I find the right pace for me on my journey towards FIRE then I can live the life I want to, confident that it’s sustainable for me and that I won’t look back and regret the things that I missed out on in life.

It’s been playing on my mind quite a bit recently that I’m getting a little bit obsessed with what my net worth is and how long I’ve got to go until I’m free. I’m waking up thinking about it, any quiet moments at work have me playing about with various figures to calculate when I can afford to give up work (spoiler alert, it’s going to be a while yet), and I’m constantly mulling over different scenarios that could lead to me reaching FIRE. I am a bit of an all or nothing girl anyway. Moderation isn’t really in my vocabulary. So it’s not really massively surprising that I’m constantly thinking about FIRE. It would be a lot more useful though if this thinking and planning led to a bit more action rather than just counting how many years there are to go. It hasn’t escaped my attention that what I’m actually doing is wishing my life away. Yes I want to reach FIRE as soon as I can, but do I want to do that at the expense of living life to the full and being properly present in the moment? Er, no, definitely not.

I think I’m probably at the point where I’m saving as much as I’m prepared to, based on my current income. The key now is going to be growing my income, hopefully from some sort of side hustle that I can fit around my current work, children, friends and hobbies. The things that I’ve got in place so far to pay off the mortgage and invest will keep doing their thing whether I’m constantly thinking about the figures or not. Keeping track of spending and what you’re worth is clearly an important part of reaching FIRE, but once you’ve got your life organised to spend less than you earn and invest the rest, then you should just be able to get on with living your life. So being slightly less obsessive is something for me to work on. I’m not sure how successful I’ll be on that score, but I can only try.

So without further ado, here’s my net worth figures for last month.

Debts

Mortgage £88,889

Assets

Cash £15,558

Money in sharesave £9,804

AVC’s £3,516

Shares £32,227

House £228,000

Total Assets £289,105

Net Worth including house equity

£289,105 – £88,889 = £200,216

Net Worth excluding house equity

£61,105 – £88,889 = -£27,784

So ta da, I managed to just sneak over the £200k mark for my net worth when I take into account the house equity. I was lucky with a bump in the price of the shares I hold from work, which nudged me over that elusive figure. It won’t take much for it to drop down below again, but hopefully with my continuing paying off of my mortgage and keeping saving then I’ll keep going in the right direction. The next milestone is getting to the point where I have as much in savings and investments as I owe on the mortgage, so I could theoretically pay it off. I reckon within the next two years that net worth figure excluding the house equity should be at zero. Hardly an impressive figure, but better than the negative amount I’m at just now.

I’ve had a change of heart about what I’m going to do with my pay rise. I was planning on investing in index trackers, but instead I’ve decided to put another £100 a month towards my mortgage. I’ve gone back and forth on this one, as I know I need to grow my passive income, but at the same time I can’t be financially free whilst I’ve still got the mortgage as a millstone around my neck. I think for me I’d feel more comfortable knowing that my debt was getting smaller. Barring interest rate rises (I know, I know, I’m forever the optimist) then this new payment means that I’ll have my mortgage paid off just before I reach 60. As 60 is the worse case scenario for when I want to pack in work, then I feel better knowing the mortgage will be gone by then to allow me to stop working. £100 is also more than my payrise, but I’m working on the assumption that I’ll find the extra money somewhere. I always do.

So with my current expenses excluding my mortgage I reckon I can live on about £15k a year. My pension at 60 will be about £10k, so I just need to make up the shortfall in passive income. Any income from a side hustle can hopefully also continue to pay for fun stuff that I’m sure will be in abundance in my post FIRE life. A bit of travel thrown into the mix with all my free time would be much appreciated. So I want to keep hammering away at the mortgage, keep on with my current share save schemes, as they’re due to net me a nice wee profit over the next couple of years, and work on increasing my income so I can afford to invest more now and use that to top up my passive income once I reach FIRE. Sounds like a bit of a plan.

A plan to reach FIRE is one thing, but what a post FIRE life will look like is a whole other thing. As I was getting ready for work on Monday morning I started to daydream about how differently my day would go once I’d reached FIRE. I certainly wouldn’t have set my alarm for 6am, although I imagine I would still be waking up fairly early, but having had enough sleep to feel fully rested. I might get up and do some yoga in the house. I’d spend my morning working on some sort of a side hustle, which I’d decided to continue after I reached FIRE to bring in some extra cash. I imagine when being free from work was still a novelty I would spend a bit of time getting my house sorted. I like to think I’m quite good at decluttering, but the reality is that just now I begrudge spending too much of my limited free time clearing things out. When I have much more free time I could sort my possessions and only keep those that were useful or brought me joy. I’d like to think my house would be a lot cleaner than it is at the moment, but whether that would actually be the case or not remains to be seen. I tend to do as much cleaning as is really necessary and then clean like a dervish when it gets messier than I can stand. I’m not entirely sure that would change with more time on my hands.

I think I would enjoy spending more time exploring where I live on foot rather than whizzing by in the car in a mad rush. I love walking, but just now I hardly spend any of my time actually doing it. Without things being so busy I would have time to walk places rather than automatically jump in the car.  It would also be nice to spend time with friends without being exhausted and feeling like you’re needing to try and find time to fit in visiting them. I think everything will be all the better for not being shattered all the time and having the luxury of taking your time with things.

I think the key to a happy post FIRE life will be to have enough going on that you feel fulfilled, but not so much that you end up feeling just as frazzled as when you’re working for the man. As with everything in life, balance is key. Sometimes when I’m off work I end up feeling at a bit of a loose end and that I’m not really achieving anything. For me, a bit of structure works well. So I imagine once I’m able to stop working I’ll want to adhere to a bit of a schedule, whilst allowing enough flexibility to go with the flow and make the most of opportunities that present themselves.

 I sometimes have hermit like tendencies, so making myself go out in the world will be important for me. As long as I’m still running then my various clubs will work well for this, but I’ll also need to factor in some other social interaction. Just now I crave time to myself, but once I haven’t got the enforced social aspects of work, then it will be important to make sure that I’m not spending all my time alone. Nice problems to have. You effectively get to design the life that you want to have. It takes a bit of thinking about though. For so long our lives are structured by our working hours and then trying to cram our actual lives in to the few hours in the evenings and the all too quick weekends.

So all in all I’m reasonably happy with how things are going in my quest for FIRE. It’s been really motivating to get over the £200k mark for my net worth including my house equity. Still a long way to go to say the least, but I’m definitely making progress. The next step is to increase my mortgage overpayment again to make good use of my pay rise. I’ll keep having a think about potential side hustles and do some more research on this.  It’s been good having a think about what I want my post FIRE life to look like. By visualising my ideal life once I’ve reached FIRE I’m much more likely to keep on track and make the necessary changes to bring in the extra income that will allow me to be free from my mortgage and have enough passive income to support my lifestyle. Let me know how you’re getting on with your FIRE journey. I’m always keen to learn from others that are striving for FIRE, or who have already achieved the holy grail of financial independence.