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.

August Review

It’s time to see how I got on in August, both in terms of my money and working on my goals.

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 used 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 £91,392.92 (£91,885.11)

Assets

Cash £29,026.93 (£34,725.71)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £15,431.04 (£14,534.87)

Shares £71,318.81 (£66,050)

House £269,000 (£250,000)

Total £515,430.38 (£495,964.18)

Net Worth including house equity

£515,430.38 – £91,392.92 = £424,037.46 (£404,079.07)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£15,431.04 – £91,392.92 = -£75,961.88 (-£77,350.24)

A couple of things to talk about in those figures. I took £6k out of my savings and put them in my Vanguard Stocks and Shares ISA. As a single parent I really like having a good chunk of money in the bank “just in case”. I figured £29k in savings is probably still enough to let me sleep at night, but has a bit more of my money working harder for me. Definitely a good decision, but I think that’s probably as far as I’m prepared to go for now.

Putting that extra money into my Vanguard account has the added advantage that I now have more money in index trackers than I do in work shares. I still have far too many of those shares, but at least I’m going in the right direction. My plan is to sell about £4k worth of the works shares before the end of the tax year to max out my ISA for the year. I’m going to try and wait for the share price to hopefully go up a bit, but no matter what I think I’ll stick to that plan. Considering only 18 months ago I only had £650 in my Vanguard account and everything else was in my work shares, I’m pretty pleased with my progress. Of course I’ve not actually bitten the bullet yet and sold any shares, but I will.

I’ve put a higher house value in there this month. It’s just based on a Zoopla figure, so I’m not sure quite how accurate it would be. It doesn’t really matter anyway as I’m not planning on selling any time soon, and although I include my figures with the house equity in there, it’s not really something I’m particularly focussed on.

Let’s move on now and see how I got on with working on the goals I set myself. Here’s a quick reminder of what I was working on.

  • Do at least one 13 mile training run. DONE. I managed a 14 mile run last weekend. It was only supposed to be 13, but I got lost in the woods and ended up running a different route to what I expected. I managed to keep going till I found my way home and was happy to get 14 miles in the bag.
  • Get down to ten and a half stone. FAIL. I’m actually back up at 11 stone again. This is a bit of a recurring pattern for me. It is what it is.
  • Get at least seven and a half hours sleep a night at least five nights a week. PASS. I’ve really made sure that I focussed on this. I just need to keep this going now.
  • Climb Scafell Pike. PASS. I loved, loved, loved this. It felt relatively easy, which was great, but still felt like a great achievement.
Photo by Eric Sanman on Pexels.com

I’ve done well with my goals this month. I’m not setting any goals for September. My mental health has taken a bit of a battering recently. It’s certainly strange times that we’re living in, and work is also proving incredibly stressful. I’m normally pretty resilient, but I think it’s fair to say things have been getting too much for me for a while now. There’s only so long you can just plough on pretending everything is ok. I’ve finally been to the doctors and have got some help in the form of a prescription and a bit of time off work. I’m hoping I’ll start feeling a bit more like my usual self quite soon, but in the meantime I’m going to hunker down, get myself in a better place and be a bit nice to myself. The only thing I want to achieve this month is getting the Great North Run done and getting myself in a better head space. If I can manage that then I’ll be happy.

My Perfect Day

I joined a new team a little while ago. The first meeting we had together the boss did a little getting to know you all session. He asked us all what our perfect day was. Quite a few people said their wedding day, or the day they had their children. I’ve been married twice and divorced just as often, so whilst I had a really nice time on both my wedding days, I definitely wouldn’t say they were my best days ever. The days I had my fabulous children. Er, no. Maybe if I was a father that might be the case. As the woman having to get a child out of my body I would most definitely say I’ve had few worst days, and definitely had better ones. I remember the day I had my youngest my mum came to visit me. She asked me how it was and I just looked at her. “That bad?” she said. “He’s worth it though isn’t he?” “Not yet he isn’t” I replied. Both of them most definitely are worth it now, but the actually giving birth days themselves have to be as far away from perfect as it’s possible to be.

Photo by Jeremy Wong on Pexels.com

It got me thinking about what my perfect day would be. I realised that for me it’s not necessarily about the momentous days, the ones you’re supposed to remember as perfect. In the end I settled on two days that were vying for the title of perfect day. They were both quite different, but had a fair number of common factors. In both of them I was abroad on holiday, the sun was shining (although not all the time) and on both of the days I was spending time with a good friend. I’ll tell you about the first Perfect Day, and maybe I’ll write about the other one another time.

My first version of my perfect day is set in Havana. I had a holiday in Cuba a few years ago. We went to celebrate my friend’s 50th birthday. We’d both wanted to go to Cuba for ages, so this seemed like a fitting excuse to finally get over there. We were renting rooms in a Cuban home, under the Casa Particular scheme, which is Cuba’s equivalent of Airbnb. We were staying right in the centre of Havana, and it was like being in a different world. The poverty was overwhelming, but then so was the zest for life evident everywhere. People were playing dominoes out in the street, the bars were full of real characters and everybody wanted to talk to you to share their story and find out about you.

This particular day started with me waking up really early. Even jet lag can have its place in a perfect day. I put my running stuff on and at 5am I quietly let myself out of the big wooden door and into the street. I ran down the hill towards the malecón where people were already out and about getting their days started. I ran along the seafront, passing fishermen, couples strolling hand in hand and plenty of other runners. Even at that time in the morning it was already starting to warm up. Any later and it would have been far to hot for me to contemplate my five mile run. I ran past the capitol building and stopped for a selfie. Well, it would have been rude not to.

Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com

Back at the room I got myself ready for the day ahead, with that feeling of satisfaction you get from having got some miles in your legs before other people have even made it out of bed. We then strolled into the centre of Havana for a fantastic breakfast. Can a perfect day really be perfect without a truly outstanding breakfast? Maybe, but luckily this one had a fantastic one that set us up for the day.

We decided to do an open top bus tour to get our bearings a little bit. The weather was doing that thing where it’s boiling, but rain is threatening. Not just a shower, but that really laugh out loud rain that you only really seem to get abroad. We got on the bus, made our way upstairs and settled down for a tour of Havana. Apparently health and safety is not really a thing in Cuba. Pretty soon we were having to duck for electrical cables, street signs and traffic lights. Then the rain started. Calling it rain doesn’t really do it justice. It was bouncing off the bus and we were immediately soaked to the skin. We were having so much fun that we didn’t go downstairs to the dry. We just laughed our way through the tour. When they got to the outskirts of Havana they were clearly running out of things of historical interest to point out. When they mentioned a supermarket that Fidel Castro used to frequent we pretty much dissolved into hysterics. Maybe you had to be there, but take it from me it was one of the highlights of the trip.

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

By the time we got off the bus the sun was out again and we pretty soon dried out. Then we did one of our favourite things to do on holiday. We like to call in soaking up the atmosphere, but it could look like just walking around looking at buildings, people watching and stopping occasionally for refreshments. There’s certainly plenty to see in Havana. We sat in a little square for a rest. My friend disappeared off for a bit and came back with cake for us both which someone was selling from a cart. It was the best cake ever. And let’s be honest, a perfect day isn’t a perfect day without cake.

Next we took a tour in a classic car that Havana is famous for. I generally view cars as lumps of metal to get me from A to B, but even I could appreciate the glamour of what we were being driven around in. We got dropped off at El Floridita, a bar made famous by Hemingway, and the home of the daiquiri. Even as a non-drinker I had my photo taken with a daiquiri. It just has to be done in Havana, even if you’ve no intention of actually drinking it.

Photo by Dimitri Dim on Pexels.com

By this time we were ready for some dinner. We were walking around looking for a restaurant. Someone approached us to take us to one of the small scale restaurants that have been established in people’s houses. We followed him up a winding staircase and entered a lovely restaurant with a handful of tables. He apologised for the balcony table not being available, but we assured him things were perfect. We were enjoying our drinks. It took them a little while to reconcile themselves to the fact that I wasn’t drinking alcohol, but they made me a virgin cocktail which was delicious. Then the guy who’d brought us in rushed over. He’d noticed that the balcony was now free. He moved us over and we settled ourselves in, making the most of the views of Havana. The lobster we ate was out of this world. Would it have been more perfect if I was there with a partner rather than my gay best friend? You know, I don’t think it would. We have the best holidays and I can’t imagine doing that trip with anyone except him.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

In Havana terms the night was still young, so we walked along the malecón where I’d started my day with my run. We followed the sounds of music, laughter and glasses clinking and found some sort of a festival going on. There were a few tourists there, but mainly it was locals enjoying themselves on a Friday night. We got a drink from one of the outdoor bars and walked around. We got chatting to a group of people and one of the guys offered to teach me to salsa. I love to dance anyway, but when a Cuban offers to teach you to salsa in Havana you snatch their hand off. It really was the perfect end to a perfect day.

June and July Review

I’m going to do a combined June and July review seeing as I hadn’t got around to doing my June post by the time July was ready to get published. What can I say. I’m a summer girl at heart and when the sun shines I’m outside making the most of it rather than being huddled over my laptop.

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 used 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 £92,377.27 June £91,885.11 July (£92,869.64)

Assets

Cash £34,541.56 June £34,725.71 July (£35,002.04)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £14,026.62 June £14,534.87 July (£13,131.25)

Shares £65,289.39 June £66,050 July(£66,329.57)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total £494,511.17 June £495,964.18 July (£495,116.46)

Net Worth including house equity

£494,511.17 – £92,377.27 = £402,133.90 June £495,964.18 -£91,885.11 = £404,079.07 July (£402,246.82)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£14,026.62- £92,377.27 = -£78,350.65 June £14,534.87 – £91,885.11 = -£77,350.24 (-£79,738.39)

I’m reasonably happy with those figures. The work share price is pretty rubbish at the minute, but even so things are all going in the right direction. I’ve still got too much cash sitting there as a bit of a security blanket, but I’m in the process of transferring £6k out of my savings account and putting that into my Vanguard ISA. That will show in my August figures. No doubt I should get rid of even more savings, but for now that’s enough for me. I like having enough easily accessible so that I feel I can deal with unforeseen circumstances. I might move a bit more money around at some point, but for now I’m happy with what I’ve done.

Not much else to say about those figures. As I mentioned in my last blog post I’m a bit bored with thinking about FIRE. I guess it’s probably natural. I’m doing what I need to do to get to where I want to be. I don’t need to think about things too much. I go through spells where I spend far too long looking at my spreadsheets. Once in a blue moon I’ll have a Eureka moment, where I think of a way to work smarter not harder with my finances. Putting extra money into my AVC fund instead of overpaying my mortgage was one such instance. Thinking about how much cash I have on hand is another example, even if my naturally cautious nature means I haven’t gone as full on as I could have done with depleting my savings account and putting more into index trackers.

As I mentioned at the beginning I’ve been making the most of the summer. I love it when the sun shines, so I’ve been dashing out to the garden on my breaks and straight away after work. Yet another benefit on working from home. Although I don’t feel like I’ve been particularly productive, I have managed to tick a few things off my 60 for 60 list. I’ve also amended it a bit; replacing a few slightly dull activities with more adventurous ones. I’ll write a post at some point with an updated list and a bit of chat about how I’ve found the things that I have got done.

I’m just coming to the end of my two week holiday. I’ve managed a slightly more normal holiday than last year, but still far from what I would have planned. I managed to get away camping in the north of Scotland, back to one of my favourite camp sites. I could only get three nights booked, but it was great to get away and enjoy the fantastic views. I also visited my folks and made the most of parkrun having restarted in England. I got myself to Hexham for a fabulous riverside parkrun which was lovely and flat. I also met up with my brother and sister and we walked a mammoth 26 miles around Kielder reservoir. That’s the furthest I’ve ever walked, and I was completely exhausted by the end. The sense of achievement was incredible though. It’s been a good summer of walking for me. I climbed The Cheviot, the highest peak in Northumberland and also walked a stretch of Hadrians Wall. Next weekend will see me back down south and climbing Scafell Pike. I’m definitely getting some good things ticked off my 60 for 60 list.

Photo by JACK REDGATE on Pexels.com

It’s back to work on Monday and I’m already dreading getting back in the swing of things. As usual my time off has made me reflect on what my life will look like when I do finally achieve FIRE. I’m hopeful that there’ll be lots of running and walking in there and plenty of travel too. I’ve noticed that lots of the conversations I have with my friends eventually come round to retirement and what our plans are. I don’t think it’s usually me that brings it up, so I guess I must just be of that age where my friends are making plans hopefully to stop working in the next decade or so. It will be nice to have other people retired so that I have some people to hang out with during the week. Much as I enjoy my own company it’s good to have people to share the fun with.

Unusually I didn’t set myself any goals to achieve on my last post. Making the most of the summer seemed more important. I still feel like that, but I do have the Great North Run coming up in September, so I really need to focus on that. Let’s hope some goals around that will be useful. Here goes then.

  • Do at least one 13 mile training run. I’m already up to ten miles, so this should be an easy one. Training plans don’t usually recommend that you do the full distance in training, but I’m a rebel and always like to know I’ve done the full amount before the big day.
  • Get down to ten and a half stone. I was doing great with my eating and my weight was more or less where I wanted it to be. After two weeks off work that’s definitely no longer the case. I’ve not even got on the scales, and have no intention of doing that before Monday morning. Come Monday though I need to be on it healthy eating wise.
  • Get at least seven and a half hours sleep a night at least five nights a week. Sleep is always important, but never more so than when you’re in training. I’ve been a bit bad with this for a while now, so it’s time to sort that out.
  • Climb Scafell Pike.
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

I think that is plenty to be getting on with. I’ll focus on my health for a bit and reintroduce some good habits. All in all things are ticking along quite nicely. I’m having a lovely holiday, even if I do seem to have spent a fair bit of it getting stuff done, like booking dentist appointments and cleaning the house. That’s always the danger with a staycation. It has given me the time to make some plans though and I can’t tell you how much I loved getting back to parkrun. Only a week to go until it restarts in Scotland and then I can get my Saturday morning fix on a regular basis.

No Motivation May

It’s almost time to do my June figures, so I really better get my May ones out there. Better late than never as they say. Money first of all and then we’ll have a look at how I did with my goals.

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 used to track how I was doing with my net worth minus the house equity. This was to see where I was in my quest to become mortgage neutral. Now that I’ve well and truly achieved that I don’t feel the need to track that any more. Instead what I’ve decided to do is see 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 used 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 £92,869.64 (£93,361.71)

Assets

Cash £35,002.04 (£35,708.53)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £13,131.25 (£12,464.24)

Shares £66,329.57 (£61,194.27)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total £495,116.46 (£490,020.64)

Net Worth including house equity

£495,116.46 – £92,869.64 = £402,246.82 (£396,658.93)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£13,131.25 – £92,869.64 = -£79,738.39 (-£81,839.75)

A nice bump in the work share price has made my figures look really nice. Of course it’s subsequently dropped again, so June is not going to look quite so good, but that’s just the way it goes. I probably should have sold some of those when the price was up and stuck the money into my Vanguard account, but I get excited with the price going up and think this is the beginning of the great recovery. It never is! I did use some dividends that got paid to invest more in my Vanguard ISA, and I topped it up with some of my cash too to meet the minimum pay in amounts on two of the funds I invest in. I’ll just keep doing things like that to try and increase the amount in my index trackers. I definitely still need to diversify more, but I am at least going in the right direction. I’m still holding a stupid amount in cash, but it helps me sleep at night, so I’m not too worried about making any massive changes to that.

It’s nice to get my net worth over the £400k mark, but really it’s a bit of an arbitrary figure. I’m not selling my house any time soon and I’m not drawing my pension for quite some time yet. Still nice to hit it though. Hopefully it won’t be a million years until I get to the half million point. That really will be something to celebrate.

There’s still miles to go with my mortgage, but I’m glad I’ve stuck with my plan of putting the amount I was overpaying into my AVC fund instead. With a base rate mortgage there’s no point paying it off too quickly, and hopefully this way I can make the most of saving more with the tax advantages that come from paying into AVC’s. It also means that I duck under a salary cut off point for my son applying for student loans and bursaries.

There’s not much else to say about the figures really. The plan is working, albeit very slowly. If I’m perfectly honest I’m getting a bit bored of thinking about FIRE just now. I’ve got everything set up doing what it needs to do. I just need time to pass now so I can get my finances to where I want them to be. Of course I don’t want that time to pass too fast as then I’ll be wishing my life away.

I’m trying to make things happen at work by making the most of opportunities that come up, putting myself forward for things and started the long process of getting enough experience for the next job that I want to go for. That’s likely to take a while, but I’ve definitely made a good start. I think that’s probably the biggest thing I can do to help me reach FIRE, is get a better paid job. The next step up probably won’t come with much of a bump in pay, and in fact initially it might come with no increase at all, but in the long run it’s definitely going to be a good move.

So enough about my money, let’s look at my goals. I’m going to preface this by saying I have absolutely no motivation whatsoever at the moment. I feel like I’m wading through treacle somewhat. I’m eating rubbish, running as slow as a slow thing and generally not wanting to do more than is absolutely necessary. I think that’s ok though. Well, maybe it’s not, but it is what it is. We can’t be 100% going for it all the time. I’m enjoying being able to see people a bit more, and have had a trip south of the border to see family and gets some lovely long walks in. Goals are on the back burner, but no doubt I’ll get back on it at some point.

So here’s a reminder of my goals for May.

• Finish couch to 5k. PASS All done and I’m now running normally. Well you know, slowly and not as far as I’d like, but without needing to stop and walk, and crucially still injury free.

  • Cross train twice a week. PASS A mixture of walking and cycling twice a week. Mainly walking with friends, which has been really nice.
  • Start a new Spanish series. PASS Technically a pass. I have started a new series, but I’ve only watched one episode. Zero motivation for Spanish just now.

Weigh under ten and a half stone on 1st June. FAIL On 1st June I weighed 10 stone 10.2 lb. To be honest I’m amazed it wasn’t more. I’m still a stone lighter than I was at the height of lockdown, but also ten pounds heavier than I was at Christmas.

As I’m doing this review so late in the month I don’t really see the point in setting myself any goals. It’s summer, the sun has been shining a bit and quite frankly I’ve not felt like working at much. No doubt I’ll get my motivation back at some point, but for now there’s not much point flogging a dead horse. I’ll just chill out, survive work and enjoy having my son home for the university holidays.

Money, Goals and Running for April

April seemed to go by in a bit of blur. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Let’s see how I did in terms of my Net Worth and working towards my goals.

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 used to track how I was doing with my net worth minus the house equity. This was to see where I was in my quest to become mortgage neutral. Now that I’ve well and truly achieved that I don’t feel the need to track that any more. Instead what I’ve decided to do is see 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 used 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 £93,361.71 (£93,853.99)

Assets

Cash £35,708.53 (£35,668.12)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £12,464.24 (£11,634.04)

Shares £61,194.27(£57,266.53)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total £490,020.64 (£485,222.29)

Net Worth including house equity

£490,020.64 – £93,361.71 = £396,658.93 (£391,368.30)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£12,464.24 – £93,853.99 = -£81,839.75

I’m pretty happy with those figures. It doesn’t seem five minutes since I was delighted to get my shares above the £50k mark, and now I’m above £60k. My net worth including the house equity is edging ever closer to £400k, which will be a nice figure to get to. It doesn’t really mean anything, as it includes twenty year’s worth of my defined benefits pension and the house that I live in. Neither of these things can I use at this stage to skip away from work without looking back. FIRE is a big thing to aim for though, so you have to play tricks with yourself and celebrate random figures that you achieve.

There’s obviously a long way to go until my AVC fund value gets anywhere near what I owe on my mortgage. As long as I get there by the time I’m 60 then I’ll be happy with that. I took the mortgage out until I was 70 but with the plan to over pay it and get it cleared by the time I was 60. I’m hoping I’ll achieve the same outcome doing it this way, but that compounding can do a lot of the heavy lifting for me. With a base rate mortgage it makes no sense to clear the mortgage quickly, but I don’t think I’d be comfortable with still having a mortgage when I’d stopped working.

It’s felt like I’ve been spending a bit more recently. April is an expensive month anyway in terms of my car. The insurance, tax, MOT and service are all this month. With a bit of jiggery pokery I’ve managed to get the car tax into May’s figures by paying it right at the end of the month on my credit card. There’s still a lot to pay out in one month though. Luckily the car got through the MOT without anything too horrendous. £250 for a ten year old car to pass the MOT I didn’t think was too bad. I can’t really think what else I’ve spent. A takeaway I think and a few treats to celebrate the slight easing of lockdown. May is already proving much more expensive, but as that includes a week’s holiday from work I’m not going to worry too much about that. And anyway that’s a confession for next month’s review!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I think that will do for the money side of things now. Let’s move on to see how I did with the goals that I set myself. Here’s what I said I would be working on in April

  • Finish Cien días series 2. PASS This is all done. I really enjoyed it and this wasn’t a chore to do. I’m sure my Spanish must be improving, but I have to be honest I can’t really see it myself.
  • Complete up to week 5 of Couch 2 5k PASS I’m still really unfit, but crucially my hip is holding up. If I walk for too long my hip hurts, but with the amount of running I’m doing just now I don’t feel it at all on my runs. Long may this continue.
  • Read the Moscow Rough Guide. FAIL You would think with only setting myself three goals this month I would definitely get them all done. Apparently not. I think maybe it just seems too far off for me to be interested in reading the guide book. Or maybe I’d be better just dipping in to various sections as and when I want to research particular things. We have made a bit more progress on planning, I just haven’t read the book.

So let’s set myself some things to work on for May.

  • Finish couch to 5k. I’m on track for this. As long as I don’t get injured again I should be able to finish this no problem. The latter part of the programme is building up the length of time you run for, with no walking at all. I’m being careful to follow the schedule and not rush on ahead and get injured again.
  • Cross train twice a week. I’m trying a new strategy to stay injury free. Instead of running four times a week I’m going to stick to three times weekly and put in some walking or cycling on top of that. I’m hoping going out on the bike will strengthen my hip without putting any strain on it. That’s the plan anyway.
  • Start a new Spanish series. I have picked one and added it to my list on Netflix. I can’t for the life of my think what it’s called, but I know I’m good to go with it.
  • Weigh under ten and a half stone on 1st June. Going back to an old favourite of mine. I was ten stone 7.2lb on the 1st May, however I’ve had a week’s holiday since then. The fact that I haven’t been on the scales since the first of the month probably tells you all that you need to know. I’m a bit annoyed with myself with this one as I was doing so well. Time to get back on it.
Photo by Dylan Howell on Pexels.com

I think that will do for the month. As usual no money goals in there, which seems ridiculous when this is supposed to be a FIRE blog. I never really see the point though. I’ve got things set up how they need to be. Unless I earn more then I’m not going to be able to save and invest more. I’m working on the earning more angle with my 9-5, but realistically that’s probably going to take a bit of time to come to fruition. I have everything automated in terms of my investments, so there’s no point setting myself goals around those. And randomly trying to achieve a certain level of net worth seems a bit pointless. The markets will do what they will do, and whilst I’m happy when I hit certain random figures, setting myself goals around that doesn’t seem like a good use of my time.

I’m happy with how I’m progressing in my journey towards FIRE. I’m working on the things that are important to me, albeit with certain recurring themes around my weight, which to be honest have been a work in progress for most of my life. Unless something miraculous happens I imagine I’ll be thinking about my weight until the day I die. Sad but true. I’m happy to be back running and the key is going to be staying injury free. With parkrun due to restart in England next month I have already planned some trips across the border to ahem “visit my parents”. The fact that these visits will allow me to be in a park in England at 9am surrounded by fellow runners is purely coincidental! Have a great May everyone.

March 2021 Review

It’s time for me to have a look and see how March was for me. I’ll put my Net Worth figures up and an update on how I did with my monthly goals.

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. As I reached Mortgage Neutrality last month I’m not including that figure any more. Funny how something that was so important to me last month is not even getting included this time. I’m sure I’ll find something else to focus on as I strive for FIRE.

Debts

Mortgage £93,853.99 (£94,345.97)

Assets

Cash £35,668.12 (£35,523.72)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £11,634.04 (£10,814.45)

Shares £57,266.53 (£52,479.19)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total £485,222.29 (£479,470.96)

Net Worth including house equity

£485,222.29 – £93,853.99 = £391,368.30 (£385,124.99)

Another great month from a shares point of view. The work share price is up yet again, and my Vanguard ISA is doing great as well. I still need to diversify as I have more than half my equities in an individual share. Mind you a year ago I had about £600 in index trackers and the rest in my work shares, so I’m actually doing great on shifting the balance. I’ve not actually sold any of the work shares as yet, but rather have cashed in ongoing share saves as the option price most definitely wasn’t worth taking advantage of. I’ve decided I’m not doing any more share saves. I don’t want to have to wait three years to get my money in the market. Plus I don’t want to add any more to my already top heavy share allocation. I buy a tiny amount each month as work offer a share match scheme which is really just too good to pass up. In the grand scheme of things though it’s nothing, and my plan is index trackers all the way from here on in.

Somehow I managed to fill my ISA allowance during the tax year, which sadly is not something I would usually be able to do. That gives me options moving forward for selling some of the individual shares and sticking them into the ISA in index trackers. I’m continuing to invest each month to my Vanguard account and I’m loving how quickly it’s growing. Well, you know, it’s all relative. I’ll not be able to chuck in work any time soon, but it’s most definitely going in the right direction. It’s not that long since my Equities hit £50k and already I have £60k in my sights for my next target.

Cash is up again very slightly. With the eldest going off to uni (and now back in his bedroom studying remotely) and the subsequent reduction in maintenance, child benefit and the miniscule amount of working tax credit that I get, my budgets don’t actually balance. So it’s an absolute miracle that I’m not eating into my cash reserves. Actually it’s a reflection of lockdown. I still have budgets for petrol, entertainment, holidays etc for when these things were possible and necessary. For now I’m filling the car up once every few months and although I’ve booked a few shows, I’ve already had some cancellations and subsequent refunds. What I’m not currently spending of my various budgets I’m shoving towards the house budget to save up to get a working ensuite. Once that’s done the cash amount will go down considerably, but considering the amount of cash I have sitting there I can definitely live with that. I’ve decided to spend a bit of money on the house. I moved in almost four years ago and spent next to nothing on it. Time for a bit of TLC on the place. Nothing major, but I got a new rug for the lounge and it’s made such a difference. I was planning on buying a bookcase too, but luckily my ex husband was moving and getting rid of a load of stuff. I managed to blag a bookcase, and he even helped me carry it out of his place. An amicable relationship with the ex husband certainly has plenty of benefits! The lounge looks much cosier now for not too much of an outlay. Money well spent I would say.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Not much else to say on the money side of things. Things are going in the right direction. As always I know I need to diversify, I have too much cash and I could do with earning more so that I can invest more, or at the very least keep investing the same amount without depleting my cash reserves to do so. Somehow I seem to keep plodding away without a fantastic salary. I have a good life. I spend enough, but not a ridiculous amount. My strategy of waiting to replace things until absolutely necessary seems to be working so far. Just now the things that almost certainly need replaced include the boiler, my laptop, my phone, the ensuite and potentially the car.

I’m hoping to limp through to the end of my phone contract at the end of the year. The phone itself works ok, but every so often (more often as times goes on) the display goes really strange, with parts of the screen in darkness. It’s always remained useable, but it would probably help if I stopped dropping it all the time. My resident computer expert put Linux on my laptop which seems to have revived it, but I now get a critical disc error periodically. I’m just backing stuff up and hoping for the best. The ensuite is just not getting used. The car I’ll keep you posted on, as it’s getting the MOT and service done this month. I bought it new ten years ago and it has just over 70,000 miles on the clock. It was looking a bit dodgy last year but I’m hoping the lack of driving over the last year has bought me some extra time. The boiler mostly works, but it needs topping up every few days which is a pain. They can’t get parts for it any more apparently, so if something goes on it I’ll need to get a new one.

With all of these things I have the cash sitting there to replace them. My plan as always though is just to keep going with them as long as I possibly can. That way I keep hold of my cash for real emergencies. Run of the mill people think I’m crazy for doing this. Why would I have something sub-optimal in my life? Honestly though I’d rather have the money in my account. If it gets to the point where any of these things are really bothering me then I’ll replace them. Until then I’ll just keep going as I am. Better for the environment too.

That’s enough about the money part of my life. Let’s move on to my goals for March now. He’s a quick reminder of what I was working on.

  • Watch 16 episodes of Cien días. PASS No problems at all with this one. I’m not quite sure how many I watched, but I think it was closer to twenty.
  • Weigh under ten and a half stone on 1st April. PASS 10 stone 6 lb I don’t want to jinx it, but I seem to pretty much have this one cracked. I’m trying to make healthy choices, but I’m not denying myself. Chocolate is most definitely featuring yet again, and you know Easter is a thing. I love to be ten stone, but I have to be hungry to be that weight. That’s not sustainable long term, so I can definitely live with ten and a half. Considering at the height of my lock down weight I was not far off twelve stone I’m delighted to be back at much more of my fighting weight.
  • Do my physio exercises at least five days a week. PASS This is just what I do now. They seem to be working, so all the more reason to keep them going.
  • Research one of the trips on my 60 for 60 list. PASS (sort of) I’ve started to dive in to the detail of a trip to Russia. I’ve found a trip that seems to balance some sort of support in terms of providing flights, hotels and transfers along with some excursions, but also gives us enough time to explore on our own. It’s too early to be able to book holiday from work for next year, which makes it tricky, but research is well under way. Still lots of planning to do, but we have decided we want to visit Moscow and St Petersburg and have guide books for both places and a Russian phrase book. We’re having lots of fun talking about places we want to visit in the two cities and I have high hopes of this being a great holiday, assuming Covid restrictions have eased by next year.

So all in all that’s been a pretty successful month. I’ve done well on my goals, so time to set some new ones for April

  • Finish Cien días series 2. This should most definitely be achievable. It’s suitably trashy that even when I can’t really be bothered doing anything I’ll happily sit down and watch an episode.
  • Complete up to week 5 of Couch 2 5k I’ve come to the conclusion that my hip is probably as good as it’s going to get. I’m able to walk and cycle without any problems. The physio advised I do Couch 2 5k to give the tissue time to recover. It seems ridiculous to be running for a minute and then walking for a minute, but I’ll do what’s needed to get me back in the game.
  • Read the Moscow Rough Guide. I don’t want the planning for this trip to stop. I’m conscious that I can’t book next year’s holiday from work yet and I don’t want the momentum for this trip to just fizzle out.

I think that’s enough for now. I’m doing lots of decluttering at the moment, which is keeping me quite busy. I can’t quite bring myself to set throwing things out goals, but the reality is that’s how I’m spending quite a lot of my time just now, and it’s going well. There is an element of moving things from room to room, and parts of the house now look like a pig sty, but it’s all part of a master plan. I’ve even thinned out a lot of old paperwork and photos. The loft has been sorted and the garage will be getting done at some point.

All in all March has been a pretty good month. The money side of things is looking pretty good. I’m making steady progress; never as fast as I’d hope for, but still on track for where I want to be. I’ve smashed my goals and I’ve got some good targets to aim for in April. It’s great to be back running, even if it’s most definitely baby steps. I need to take it easy and take a step back if needed to avoid further injury. Hopefully the weather will start to perk up soon, and these hail and snow showers will make way for wall to wall sunshine. That would be nice. Have a great April everyone and let me know what you’re up to.

Freezing February Review

Let’s have a look and see what my Net Worth is looking like for February. I’ll also have a look at how I got in with the goals I set myself for February and set myself some things to work on in 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’ve also got my Net Worth not including the DB Pension or the house equity, which seems barmy, but is really just to represent how close I’m getting to mortgage neutrality.

Debts

Mortgage £94,345.97 (£94,838.70)

Assets

Cash £35,523.72 (£34,965.12)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £10,814.45 (£10,307.70)

Shares £52,479.19 (£49,209.19)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £479,470.96 (£475,135.61)

Net Worth including house equity

£479,470.96 – £94,345.97 = £385,124.99 (£380,296.91)

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

£98,817.36 – £94,345.97 = £4,471.39 (-£356.69)

So let’s unpick those figures a little bit. A nice little bump up in the work share price has had a rather nice impact on my numbers. The only slight down side to that is that the proportion of my investments in work shares as opposed to index trackers has increased. It’s good that they’re worth more, but it still really concerns me that I’m not diversified enough. I’ve more or less filled up this year’s ISA allowance, so next month when we pass the cut off date I can think about selling some of them and putting more into my Vanguard account. The problem is every time the share price recovers a bit I get all optimistic about them and think that they might go somewhere close to where they were before. That would make FIRE sooner rather than later much more realistic, but at some point I will have to just cut my losses and accept that it’s more important to be diversified rather than wait for some magical jump up in the share price. That’s a mental adjustment that I need to make rather than anything else though.

The really big news this month is that I’ve become mortgage neutral. Cue champagne corks popping and fireworks going off. Actually as I don’t drink that’s not quite right, but there was rather a lot of smiling happily at my spreadsheets the night I did my net worth figures this month. I’ve been banging on about becoming mortgage neutral for a long time now, so it feels fantastic to have actually got there. Post lockdown I’ve got some spending planned to have a bit of a life and to tick off some things on my 60 for 60 list, so the key is going to be to try and stay mortgage neutral.

Mortgage Neutral, whoop whoop!!

I was mortgage neutral in my last house, even though I didn’t measure all my figures in nearly so much detail as I do now as that was pre my discovery of FIRE. It’s almost four years since I moved, so it’s really nice to get back to that same position financially. I moved from a 3 bedroom semi to a 4 bedroom detached house. The move wasn’t strictly speaking necessary, but with two teenage boys the extra bathroom has certainly come in handy. And I have to say that it would have been incredibly difficult to work from home in the last house. Strictly speaking it wouldn’t have been allowed as you need to have a room where the door shuts and people don’t need to walk through it to get to other rooms. Pre Covid for people who worked from home you had to have an inspection to make sure there set up in the house was suitable as we are speaking to customers on the phone, so privacy is an issue. Things have relaxed slightly to get the majority of people safely out of the office, but you still have to have somewhere to work. One of my colleagues has spent the last year working on an ironing board as she doesn’t have room for a desk. Having the spare room to work in has made working from home so much more convenient. On balance, although moving hasn’t helped my FIRE figures I’m still really glad I did it. It’s not like the money is lost either. I can always downsize as my teenagers make their way in the world, or even rent a room out at some point in the future.

All in all it’s safe to say I’m pretty happy with this month’s figures. Let’s move on now to see how I got on with my goals for February. The fact that I’m about to have to go and check what they were probably doesn’t bode all that well.

  • Get under 10 stone. FAIL I’m going to officially give up on this one, but to be fair I got within spitting distance of it. I got down to 10 stone 0.4 lb, so I think I can probably live with that.
  • Weigh under ten and a half stone on 1st March. PASS Just, but I was 10 stone 6.4 lb on 1st March. It all went a bit pear shaped (literally) the last few days of the month, but I snuck under the magic ten and a half stone and I’m back much closer to the ten stone mark again.
  • Exercise at least four times a week for at least 30 minutes each time. FAIL I was well on track with this right up until the last week of the month. I haven’t been able to run due to injury, but I was walking four times a week for about 50 minutes a time. I was loving it. Unfortunately I went out walking in the snow and ice and fell and ended up flat on my back. This really hurt my already injured hip, and I’ve not been able to exercise since. I can’t wait to get back to it, but for now recovering from the injury is more important. So it’s physio exercises and lots of rest.
  • At least once a week cook a recipe that isn’t one of our go to recipes. PASS I was messaging one of my friends saying that I was bored with what I was cooking and wanted to try some different recipes, and was interested in trying out more veggie meals. This somehow turned into us doing a month long challenge to not eat any meat. We exchanged recipes and sent photos of our meals to each other. I must have done at least ten different recipes during the month, and I’ve now got some new meals that will be part of our repertoire.
  • Finish Cien Días. PASS I’m putting this as a pass, but strictly speaking that’s not quite right. The day after I set my goals they released an extra 35 episodes on Netflix. I’m currently working my way through them, but that’s going to take a bit of time. As long as I amend the goal to finish series one of Cien Días then I can safely say I’ve achieved it.

February has been a bit of a tricky month for me. I feel like I’m making lots of good healthy choices, my weight is staying pretty low and I was doing well on the exercise front. My injury has really put a spanner in the works for me, but I was doing well with keeping up with walking when I couldn’t run. Falling on the ice is really annoying, but I know that it’s too sore now to even be able to walk. I even had to take some time off sick as it was too painful to work. That is definitely a sign that I need to give my body a chance to recover. I’m doing my physio exercises and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get back to the walking fairly soon and build up to running at some point. I need to listen to my body and not be tempted to push too hard too soon. I need my body to keep working for the long haul, so it’s really important that I take my time and heal properly.

Let’s get some goals set for March then

  • Watch 16 episodes of Cien días. This should definitely be possible. I’m still not understanding all of it, but I think it is helping my Spanish skills. There is a danger that if I watch it after work I’m tired and not concentrating all that much, but I reckon even just immersing myself in the language without focussing massively has to be helpful.
  • Weigh under ten and a half stone on 1st April. Sound familiar? I really just want to keep myself accountable here. I want to continue to make healthy choices and part of that should be reflected in my weight. Ideally I want to be around the ten stone mark, but the extra half a stone gives me some leeway for emergency chocolate eating.
  • Do my physio exercises at least five days a week. Ideally this will be every day, but I’ll build a little bit of slack into my goal. I would like to increase the number of reps I’m doing, but I’m finding if I do too much it’s too sore, so that’s counter productive.
  • Research one of the trips on my 60 for 60 list. Pretty much nothing on my list is possible at the moment with lockdown restrictions, but that doesn’t stop me planning trips away for the future. The current thinking is maybe a trip to Russia next year with the younger son. It’s somewhere we’ve both always wanted to go to, so I’m thinking maybe next year will be the year. I need to get an idea of the costs involved and balance my spending on experiences with my desire to reach FIRE. Hopefully I’ll be able to do both.

I think that’s enough for now. I need to start to recover from this injury, and it’s really tempting to put some running goals in there, but I need to be sensible about that and listen to my body about when I’m ready to start that up again. I’ll continue to make healthy choices most of the time, work on recovering from my injury and work towards getting back to my running. I’ll keep plugging away with my Spanish TV watching and start to look into a trip to Russia. That should give me something to look forward to, which I think is crucial in these difficult times.

Sixty Things To Do By The Time I’m Sixty List

I turned fifty last year. It wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I thought it might be, despite having most of my celebrations cancelled due to lockdown. About six months before I turned the big 5-0 I started writing a list of fifty things to do before I was fifty. I think it’s safe to say that I’d probably left writing this list a little bit late. For me I think that long term goals are what I like to aim for when it comes to lists like this. I ended up putting things on there that I didn’t really care about, just so I had things that I felt I’d be able to do quickly and fairly easily. I think if I’d got to almost 50 without feeling the need to go and get my nails done, then it’s fair to say that it wasn’t something that I was all that bothered about. That turned out to be a pretty rubbish list and I barely got anything ticked off on it. At the same time though I started writing a 60 things to do by the time I was 60 list. I found I actually had more things on this list than the one for when I turned 50, although nowhere near 60 things.

Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

Recently I’ve picked up both of these lists and had a good look through them. A lot of the things on the 50 for 50 list quickly got discarded, but there was plenty on the 60 list that I really wanted to do. Just under ten years gives me a good bit of time to actually make some progress on these things that are important to me. Quite a few of these things are going to take a bit of planning and will need a bit of money spending on them, so it’s good that I’ve got plenty of time. There’s some really big FIRE milestones in there too, which is really exciting to see.

The challenge I guess is balancing spending money on experiences that I want to have with achieving my FIRE goals. The two things seem to be somewhat incompatible, but I suppose as long as I spread them out and try and do some of the travel aspirations in a budget manner then I should be ok. There are quite a few completely free things on there, along with plenty of pretty frugal ones. Some of them require a big time commitment, and others are just plain indulgent. There are some things on there that terrify me, which I think is probably a good sign that I should definitely go for it.

I’ve committed my list to the back of my bullet journal. No doubt the list will change over time. I’ve not worried about how I’m going to do all of these things, I’ve just put down that I want to do them. There are already some things that I wish I’d put on there, but which at the time didn’t quite make the cut. No doubt I’ll make some adjustments as time goes by. And if this running injury doesn’t heal then I’m going to have to think of a lot more things to go on the list, as a fair chunk is devoted to running activities!

So here’s my list.

  1. Vogrie parkrun
  2. South Shields parkrun
  3. Gibside parkrun
  4. Run a marathon (Again, but made a better job of it than I did last time)
  5. Do an ultra
  6. Do a triathlon
  7. Become a parkrun tourist
  8. Do parkrun A-Z
  9. Do the Granada half marathon
  10. Do 100 parkruns
  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
  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
  23. Write a book
  24. Do some volunteering
  25. Become mortgage neutral
  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
  34. Climb Scafell
  35. Climb Snowden
  36. Get the en suite done
  37. Ge the kitchen done
  38. Get the bathroom done
  39. Get new carpets
  40. Go to Italy
  41. Visit Copenhagen
  42. Go to Russia
  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
  51. Go to Canada
  52. See the Northern Lights
  53. Have a trip on the Jacobite Express
  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

Reading that list makes me so excited to get started. The only one I’ve actually done already is that I became a parkrun tourist just before lockdown. Every good list always has at least one thing on it that you’ve already done. The parkruns are free to do, but time constraints are going to be against me. Unless I change my job and no longer work every second Saturday then getting 250 parkruns in by the time I’m 60 will be tight. I need to factor in injuries, volunteering and of course the fact that it’s not on just now due to lockdown. We’ll not even talk about the ultra and triathlon that I’ve recklessly added to the list. I’ll worry about those another time, as they terrify the hell out of me. As does the marathon, as I remember how much that took over my life when I did one once before. I’m not entirely convinced my body is up to all these physical challenges, but I guess I don’t have to do any of them fast, I just have to do them.

Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

There’s a reasonable amount of travel in there, but hopefully not so much that it will be unachievable on my budget. I’m really excited to go to Italy. Considering how much I love Italian men and food it’s a travesty that I’ve never been there before. The really good thing about the different destinations I’ve listed is that I have a fair idea who I’ll go to each place with. These are all places that I’ve talked about going with different people over the years, we’ve just never quite got around to it.

The white water rafting is something my sister and I have been supposed to do for years. We postponed it when she got pregnant with my nephew, but as he’s twelve now we’re long overdue that adventure! And the climbing of Ben Nevis, Scafell and Snowden is something that myself, my sister and my brother have been talking about during lockdown.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

It’s really great to see that by the time I’m 60 I should have reached FIRE, with some important milestones reached during the next decade. I should be mortgage neutral really soon and then my next targets will be my AVC and Equities fund. I’m hoping I should hit those in the next five years or so. At that point I can consider the possibility of negotiating a shorter working week. I’ve very optimistically put pay the mortgage off in the list. That’s probably going to take me longer, but it’s a good target to aim for. At the very least it should be at a much more manageable level. Once I turn sixty my work pension kicks in, so full retirement should be mine for the taking. That’s pretty exciting to think about. Only a decade to go. The key is going to be to fill that decade with lots of meaningful experiences so that I can enjoy this last part of my working life.

Does anyone else have a list like mine? Any suggestions of any really great things that I’ve missed off?