Review Of October 2020

It’s that time again. The monthly review of how I’ve done in terms of my net worth and working on the goals that I set myself. I’ll set myself some new goals too so that I’ve got something productive to do in the last part of the year.

So without further ado, here’s my figures for October. As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I’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.


Mortgage £96,314.61 (£96,806.40)


Cash £34,114.80 (£34,128.46)

Defined Benefits Pension £123.683 (£123,683)

AVC’s £7,176.61 (£7,002.82 )

Shares £40,001.04 (£38,766.86)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £454,975.45(£453,581.14)

Net Worth including house equity

£454,975.45 – £96,314.61 = £358,660.84 (£356,774.74)

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

£81,292.45 – £96,314.61 = –£15,022.16 (£16,908.26)

A fairly steady month then. Cash more or less where it was, which I’m happy about. My income has dropped a bit with number one son going off to uni, but I’ve not really had that much of a reduction in my costs. The AVC fund is pitiful, but what can you do. I’ll just keep plugging away at it. As I’m only looking to get that up to £50k or so I’m probably more or less on track with that, but it does seem to be growing really slowly. Patience is most definitely not my strongest virtue, but it’s an attribute I really need to develop on my road to FIRE.

I was looking forward to my shares going over the £40k mark, and I just scraped over the line on that one. Thank goodness my work shares picked up a bit this month, as my Vanguard fund was crashing and burning. It’s since picked up I’m happy to say, but I’ve stuck with the figures I’d put into my spreadsheet a few days ago. I was sorely tempted to update, but there has to be a cut off at some point!

My mortgage neutrality quest is coming along nicely. It’s slightly galling to look back and know that I’d got as close as £9k away from mortgage neutrality before the share price for my work shares came crashing down. I’m almost back to the position I was in nearly a year ago. I’m still not nearly as diversified as I should be, but much more than I was before. With the regular amount I’m putting in my stocks and shares ISA I’ll have used up my allowance by April, so I’m not going to think about diversifying any more until next year’s allowance kicks in. Of course I’ve not managed to use up the whole £20k allowance with monthly payments from my salary. I wish. No, I cashed in a number of ongoing share save schemes, took the cash and stuck the money in index trackers.

The mortgage figure is depressing me. I’ve overpaid my mortgage for such a long time, and used to love seeing the balance dropping. I borrowed an extra £20k earlier in the year to make the most of the staff mortgage before they closed it for extra borrowing. I still think that was a good decision. In this scary Covid world I think that cash is king. It also helps that I’m paying 0.1% on the mortgage, and even with dire savings interest rates I’m still making money on the extra that I borrowed. At the same time I also reduced the amount of overpaying I was doing on the mortgage. Financially this was the right call. The reduction in the overpayment I put towards my AVC fund for my pension. The tax savings mean that I’m able to save a good bit more than I was able to overpay the mortgage. I’d love to be mortgage free though. Sometimes it’s not all about the numbers. With starting so late though I don’t feel that I have the luxury of paying off the mortgage quicker just to make myself feel better.

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Let’s move on and look at my goals for October. Just to remind ourselves my goals were:

  • Track what I eat using MyFitnessPal. FAIL I’m not going to lie, I didn’t log one single meal this month. No excuse, I just could not be bothered.
  • Lose three pounds. FAIL Technically I finished October about a pound a half lighter than I finished September, but I think that was just a natural fluctuation in my weight.
  • Complete section 5 of the Duolingo Spanish tree by the end of the year. ON TRACK This is still going really well. At my current rate I’m going to have this finished in the next two weeks.
  • Find a new Spanish series that I want to watch and see at least 2 episodes every week. PASS I’m currently watching 100 días para enamorarnos on Netflix. It’s suitably trashy that it’s holding my interest and I can work out what’s going on without being able to understand a lot of what’s actually being said! By the end of October I’d watched 14 episodes, and it is definitely helping my atrocious Spanish listening skills.
  • Learn to solve the white cross on the Rubik’s cube. PASS I totally crushed this goal. I managed to learn how to solve the whole cube. I am ridiculously pleased with myself about this.

Most definitely a mixed bag in terms of how I did against my monthly goals. The weight has been an ongoing issue all year, really since lockdown started. I’ve not been running as much and have quite frankly been eating rubbish. Yet again I’m going to say this, but I really need to address this. I’m really pleased with how my Spanish is going. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but it’s something I work on every day. I think the key is going to be watching, listening to and reading lots of things in Spanish. I was delighted when Tony from did his first blog post in Spanish. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I could understand, and really hope he’ll put out some more in his native Spanish. To say I am pleased about the rubik’s cube would be the understatement of the century. I did get stupidly obsessed with it a number of years ago, but never managed to solve it without notes. Now that I’m able to do it without the safety net of my notebook I’m delighted. My next goal is not to be the slowest person in the house at solving it. My youngest is a speed demon at it, so I won’t beat him, but the oldest is in my sights. Competitive? Moi? I don’t know what you mean.

Let’s move on to what I want to achieve in November. I’m feeling pretty motivated and want to finish the year with plenty of achievements under my belt. Time for me to set myself some goals for November:

  • Get under 11 stone. And stay there. I am only going to count this as a success if I am under 11 stone on 1st December. Christmas is coming and I am already not far off my normal post Christmas weight, which is not a good way to approach the holiday season.
  • Exercise four times a week. Ideally this will be four runs, but with my propensity for injuries, I’m going to say any exercise for at least 30 minutes counts.
  • No chocolate for the whole of November. This includes hot chocolate, as when there’s no chocolate in the house I have been known to eat hot chocolate powder straight from the tub. Oh my God. I can’t believe I’m actually setting this for myself. Considering I gave up coffee and alcohol about a million years ago then chocolate is my real treat to myself. I can do this. How hard can it be?
  • Finish section 5 of the Duolingo Spanish tree. This should be a given. Two weeks should do it, as long as I stick to my schedule.
  • Watch fifteen episodes of 100 días para enamorarnos. This sounds like a really easy goal. Watch a load of telly. I have to really concentrate though to follow what’s going on and try and pick out words that I understand. It is true that the total hotness of one of the actors ,David Chocarro, gives me plenty of motivation to keep watching!
  • Get under 2 minutes for the Rubik’s cube. I really don’t want to get too fixated on doing the cube really quickly. I’ve been there before and it’s too easy to lose whole days doing solve after solve. Sub 2 minutes should be more than achievable without needing to put in too much time.
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I’m really excited to get started on those goals. I’m in a good place with my mindset for being healthy just now. I’m enjoying my running and am already being much more consistent, if much slower than I would like. The no chocolate is going to be a major challenge. I’m going to try not to fixate on it, but I’m already experiencing some cravings. I’m enjoying eating lots of healthy foods, so I need to focus on that rather than what I’m not having. I’m excited to continue working on my Spanish, and of course improving my cubing skills. It should be a good November.

August 2020 Net Worth

I’m late to the party as usual with getting my figures out for August. I had thought I might get them done a week ago, but on one of my day’s off I was exhausted and prioritised sleeping. The other day I had the chance to meet up with one of my friends who was up in Scotland for the weekend, so we took the opportunity of getting together and putting the world to rights. Much more important than getting my figures published!

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.


Mortgage £97,298.42 (£97,790.14)


Cash £34,066.27 (£33,612.22)

Defined Benefits Pension £123.683 (£123,683)

AVC’s £6,452.88 (£6,440.24)

Shares £38,246.93 (£37,782.93)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £452,449.08 (£451,518.39)

Net Worth including house equity

£452,449.08 – £97,298.42 = £355,150.66 (£353,728.25)

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

£78,766.08 – £97,298.42 = -£18,532.34 (-£19,954.75)

Slightly more cash than last month due to an incredibly low credit card bill for the month. I pay for all of my discretionary spending on a credit card and clear it in full by direct debit each month. My utility bills go straight out from my current account, but apart from that all the food, petrol, going out, haircuts, takeaways, anything else you can think of goes on this card. Which makes me quietly very pleased that the credit card bill for the month was only £239. Not bad for the three of us for a whole month. It was partly just luck with the way things worked out. We ate our way through the freezer and cupboards, didn’t need to put petrol in the car and just generally had a pretty frugal month. It’s never been that low before and I doubt it ever will be again. Not until the kids leave home anyway. I’m already way above that level for September, but I think I can live with that.

The shares are up, but by a bit less than what I’ve invested this month. As always my Vanguard index trackers are doing well, it’s my stupid work shares that are letting the side down. I’m definitely going to have to address that at some point, but that’s a job for next year. I’m on track to use up this year’s ISA allowance anyway, so I’ll think about offloading some work shares next year to make a start on my 2021 ISA allocation.

I don’t know what the hell is going on with my AVC fund. Considering I’m putting in £477 a month, that is a spectacularly piss poor increase. I don’t know if it was just maybe a bit slow being invested this month, as when I looked last night it’s much healthier. Should give me a nice little boost in my September figures!

I’ve set some new charts up showing how I’m doing in getting to where I want to be in terms of my AVC fund and investments. My aim is to get to £50k in the AVC fund, which will allow me to take my cash lump sum without reducing the amount of annual pension I receive. My target for investments not in a pension is £125k. This will give me enough to live (still very frugally) when combined with my DB pension and the state pension when that kicks in.

Fairly pleased with August’s figures. Every section has increased (obviously apart from house value and DB pension which I just keep the same), maybe not hugely, but they’re all up. I need to just keep plugging away. I went through a stage of spending hours staring at my spreadsheets and pie charts willing them to look more promising. I realised that I was wishing my life away hoping to be further along my journey. This is going to take time. What I need to do is enjoy my life in the meantime.

I’ve had a really dodgy spell at work where I’ve been hating it. I think this has had a fair amount to do with my frame of mind as much as the realities of the job. It has been very busy and tough at work this year, but I’ve had a word with myself and decided to not hate it so much and look for the positives (of which there are quite a few). I think that’s why I was getting frustrated with how long it felt like it was taking me to reach FIRE. I really wanted to be able to quit imminently, which I’m not able to do. Now that I’ve settled down a bit more I have rediscovered the vital skill of patience on this long and winding road to FIRE.

Goals For September And Beyond

Quite frankly the last year has been pretty piss poor for me in terms of setting goals, getting stuff done and generally feeling like I’m moving forward with my life. I went through a time in my life about two years ago where things seemed to be going really well. I was making sure I got lots of sleep, which meant I had plenty of energy. That had the knock on effect of me getting loads more done. Work was going well, I was enthusiastic and felt like I was gaining new skills and carving out a role for myself in the department that hadn’t really existed before, but which suited me down to the ground. That’s no longer the case.

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I’m hating work at the moment, which is making it really difficult to feel that I’m making any progress with the rest of my life. Work is so busy and stressful that it’s sucking any motivation for me to do anything else. I finish work and am so exhausted and mentally drained that I don’t seem to have the will to do anything other than sleep on the couch and do the bare minimum to survive and keep me and my boys ticking over. That’s never been enough for me. I need to feel that I’m getting somewhere with my life, no matter where that happens to be. As long as it’s moving the way I want it to then I’m happy. Just now I feel like I’m somewhat stuck.

I’m barely running, which is always a bad sign. I know I feel so much better when I exercise, but I just don’t want to go out. I’m averaging about one or two runs a week, mainly when my friends arrange for us to meet up and get a few miles in. I can’t keep up with them any more as I’ve lost so much fitness, which again makes me not want to run. It’s not helped by the fact that I have an ongoing problem with my knees, which doesn’t particularly seem to be helped by resting or the physio exercises that is the one thing that I have been continuing to do. I always feel much more in control of my life when my running is going well. It really does make you feel like you can do anything you put your mind to.

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It’s not all doom and gloom though. On the financial side of things I have things pretty much automated so that I don’t need any willpower to stick with my plan. I’m more or less on autopilot with my budgeting and my investments go straight out of my salary and fly out of my bank account by direct debit. The one good thing I have done during this lacklustre period of time in my life is diversify my investments. This is very much still a work in progress, but at least I’ve pretty much stopped investing in shares of the company that I work for (apart from one too good to refuse deal – £75 worth of shares every month for only £30 of an outlay from me – yes please) and have started buying index trackers instead. I still hold far too many work shares, but I’m working on changing the balance on that over the next few years.

To try and jolt myself out of this lethargy I’ve decided to start setting myself goals again. I always used to do this. I like to have things to work towards and feel that I’m making progress on the things that are important to me. I usually set myself far too many goals and end up feeling overwhelmed, but sometimes that’s the only way to get things done. You might not achieve absolutely everything, but at least you do nudge yourself along in the right direction.

As usual, despite this supposedly being a FIRE blog, (actually I think it’s more a journey of the ups and downs of my life and an attempt to keep myself accountable to me if nobody else) the goals are not finance based. As I said I have a lot of my finances automated. If anything what I need to do is stop checking my money so often. I have a ritual whereby at the end of every working day I check my Vanguard account to see what it’s worth. That’s not useful, healthy or even all that encouraging. I do it anyway. It’s my treat to myself for surviving the day and a reminder that I won’t be living this life forever. It does however often lead to me wishing my life away by focussing solely on when I am going to reach my magic number and can stop working.

The ridiculous thing is that because a major part of my retirement plans focus on my defined benefits pension, and because there are some pretty serious penalties for retiring before the normal retirement age of 60, chances are I’ll be working for the next ten years come what may. Now saying that, I’m hopeful that once I reach some of my financial targets that I can negotiate a shorter working week. A four or even better three day working week sounds pretty civilised to me. As my pension is based on a salary that was capped a lot of years ago when I was working part time and quite a few grades lower than I am now, I could reduce my working hours and not impact my pension much. So although I might not be able to RE – or at least as early as I would like, I am hoping that I can take advantage of FI if I ever get there and make the last part of my working life much more tolerable.

Really I should be setting myself a target restricting the number of times I check my Vanguard account and look at my Net Worth figures and charts. I should do that, but where’s the fun in should. So I’m not going to restrict myself in that way for now. I am just going to try and remind myself that we have a finite amount of time on this planet and that I should be spending the time I have living my life to the full rather than looking longingly towards a time in some mythical future when I don’t have to work.

I’m going to try and enjoy the parts of my job that I do enjoy – which rather ironically is the bits that are ostensibly my actual job title. I do actually like talking to customers about their finances and helping them to sort things out. Of course there are days when I can’t really be bothered, but overall it’s not a bad job to have. It’s the nonsense that goes alongside it that is hard to take. The lack of time to manage your cases and the constant pressure to get on the phone and take yet another call despite having things to sort out for customers you’ve already spoken to.

So, enough about goals that I’m not going to set myself. What is important to me and is going to set me up for success in all areas of my life?

  • Get 7 hours sleep a night, 5 nights a week. This is a crucial one for me. I’ve always needed a lot of sleep. If I’m tired , which I usually am, then I can’t get anything done. When I was regularly getting 7-8 hours of sleep a couple of years ago I felt fantastic. The nights I got a full eight hours I felt invincible the next day.
  • Do 4 forms of exercise every week. In an ideal world this would be 3 runs and 1 cycle or walk. Back in the real world I know that my knee often can’t deal with this. I’m loving going out on my lockdown bike and really want to do more of that. This should get me back in the swing of exercising and hopefully I can build my running fitness back up.
  • Complete section 5 of the Duolingo Spanish tree by the end of the year. I am now on a 455 day streak on Duolingo. This sounds quite impressive, but quite a few of those days were just a quick 5 minute burst, useful but not enough to see real improvements. I finished section 3 on Christmas day and only finished the fourth section the other day, so I really should be further on than I am. This is going to be a real stretch goal for me and will require a decent amount of studying every day. It should be achievable, but only if I really stick in.
  • Find a new Spanish series that I want to watch and see at least 2 episodes every week. I finished watching Valeria on Netflix a month or so ago. It was far too fast for me, so really difficult to understand, but crucially I loved it and really wanted to watch it to find out what happened next. I need something else like that as it’s the only real way I’m going to improve my listening skills
  • Keep my car mileage under 69,000 by the end of the year. It’s raining and I can’t be bothered going out to check my current mileage, but the last time I checked a few weeks ago it was sitting at 68,648. Hitting this one will depend on a number of factors. It’s either totally achievable or completely impossible. Since lockdown I have implemented a rule that if a journey is 3 miles or under that I don’t take the car. The exception to this is if I have shopping to get, the kids are with me or there is a time constraint. Sounds like lots of get out clauses, but actually even on a 5 litre paint buying expeditions that was 3.5 miles away I walked rather than taking the car. I’m still doing the weekly Aldi shop by car, but as one of the kids comes with me and I have shopping I think that’s acceptable. I have no intention of stopping homeworking, so there’s no commute to do. The issue is going to arise if I need/want to go to Newcastle to see family, and I’m not going to restrict myself on that. Also maths boy is going off to university in October and so I’ll be going down to drop him off. The ex hubby and I are going down together. If we can get all the stuff in his car then he will probably drive as he thinks I drive too slowly, (AKA sticking to the speed limit) but if we need to go in my car then that’ll be me screwed for hitting this goal. I suppose I could take long journeys out of the target if needs be.
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I think that’s plenty to be getting on with. More sleep will help my energy levels, which hopefully will make me more motivated to exercise, which in turn will give me the will to get stuff done. Maybe then I can look at some more stretching goals. At some point I will need to address my shocking eating habits that have developed during lockdown and the subsequent weight gain, but that is something I’ll worry about another time. For now I’ll keep it simple. Get more sleep, exercise more, work on improving my Spanish and keep up the good work on restricting my car use.

My Very Meandering Road To FIRE

Later this month it will be my twenty year anniversary with work. I honestly don’t know how that happened. I moved to Scotland around the Easter time and had already sorted out a job as a sales rep selling advertising for one of the free newspapers. I lasted all of three months in that job and realised that it wasn’t really for me. It was certainly an eye opener. Driving around various small towns in Fife and calling into small businesses. I used to have to go back to the office and ask what certain words meant. Divided by a common language doesn’t just apply to Britain and the States.

That was a really exciting time for me. I was moving up to live with the now ex husband. We’d met the year before and had a bit of a whirlwind romance. We met on a two week residential training course for BT, so effectively we had a holiday romance whilst getting paid to learn how to sell phone systems. We both fell pretty hard and pretty fast, so by the Christmas we were talking about whether he would move down to England or I would move up to Scotland. To be fair there wasn’t much of a discussion. After a fairly recent divorce I was ready for a fresh start. I’d always loved Scotland, and having devoured the Outlander books as a teenager I had a bit of a thing for all things Scottish and men in kilts! Also there’s a lot more job opportunities up in Edinburgh and the surrounding areas than there ever would be in Newcastle.

That was a fairly interesting year that I had. I did pretty much every stressful thing that you can think of. I got divorced, fell in love, learned to drive, moved countries, started four new jobs, moved house four times and got married. Oh, and turned thirty too, which at the time felt incredibly significant and a sign that I needed to sort my life, but with hindsight was me still being incredibly young and with most of my life still ahead of me. The funny thing is though that it didn’t feel stressful at all. It was one of the happiest times of my life. The world seemed full of possibilities. And because I hadn’t had kids with hubby number one the divorce felt incredibly freeing, although of course really sad too.

I had a flat in Newcastle that was on the market, but took a little bit of time to sell. I bought a flat a couple of miles from Newcastle city centre for £32k. I sold it three years later for more or less what I’d bought it for. I had one of the infamous Northern Rock 120% mortgages, but luckily I’d been very restrained and hadn’t borrowed any more than was absolutely necessary. The real reason I went for that type of mortgage was that it offered the opportunity to have a guarantor. I needed this as I was working through an agency and was sadly lacking a permanent contract. My dad duly stepped up and with him on the mortgage I was able to borrow what I needed for my first flat. The folks lent me the money for a deposit as well, so that I didn’t need to go anywhere near the amount Northern Rock were looking to throw at me. Maybe I wasn’t quite so disastrous with my money back in the day as I thought I was. Over the next two years I worked overtime whenever I could, regularly working extra at the start and end of my shift and every Saturday too. Within two years I’d saved up enough for pay back the money for the deposit. Very Sassenach Saving of me!

Although my now ex ex husband lived there with me it was me that bought the property. He was an absolute nightmare with money, and even way back then I knew it was a good idea to keep my finances to myself. I loved that flat. There’s something really magical about the first place you actually buy. It was so handy for town too, that I could just hop on a bus to get into Newcastle, but a lot of the time I’d just walk in. I was sad to sell it when I moved to Scotland. I did think about renting it out, and I guess my finances could look quite a bit different if I’d done that. I took out a twenty five year mortgage, as everybody did back then. That would have been all paid up next year, so if I’d kept it on a repayment basis then I would be about to be mortgage free on a two bedroom flat within walking distance of Newcastle city centre.

On a side note, it’s a really bad idea to go online and see what properties you’ve previously owned have subsequently sold for. I did this last year, and discovered that the person I’d sold it to for £32,000 had sold it about four years later for more than double what I’d got for it. And when you see that same flat is worth over £100k now it’s somewhat annoying. Oh well. I did sell as I thought it would be a hassle trying to manage things remotely.

I quickly realised that filling the paper week in and week out with ads for car garages, furniture shops and various tiny businesses was a thankless task that would quickly become dull. The most exciting thing about that job was the day’s training in Edinburgh in The Scotsman building. It was pretty exciting being in there and seeing the hustle and bustle of a large newspaper. Sadly the regional office where I worked was nothing like that.

I started to look around for other opportunities. Back then that’s what I used to do. I didn’t feel weighed down by responsibilities. I didn’t have kids, I certainly didn’t worry about pensions, investing or any of that stuff. The two of us were having a grand old time. Initially we were living on the outskirts of Edinburgh, so would have plenty of nights out in the city centre. We also made the most of nearby cycling opportunities, heading out on the bikes after work in the summer. We were having a grand old time being young(ish), in love and generally having a lovely time going out for meals, drinking and buying whatever we fancied.

That’s when we started building up credit card debt. Not horrendous in the grand scheme of things, but certainly not very Sassenach Saving of me. Neither of us was on great money, but we should most definitely have been able to manage if we hadn’t been going out so much and buying random things. That went on for a couple of years and then we had a word with ourselves. We started paying a set amount off each month and stopped spending more than we were earning. We were married by this stage and talking about starting a family a few years down the line. I think we both felt that a solid financial base would be better than racking up yet more credit card debt. I remember being very focussed on paying off that debt, and delighted when it was finally cleared. At that point we started overpaying the mortgage, so things were most definitely going in the right direction.

Although the internet was most definitely a thing back then, it wasn’t such an everyday part of people’s lives. You certainly weren’t going online with a phone, it was a big box in the corner of the room. Maybe if we were online more we would have discovered the whole FIRE thing. I remember obsessively reading a book about people changing their lives by downshifting. It was really something I was keen to pursue, but it was very short on practical advice. There was lots of talk of people getting big redundancy payouts and wafting around teaching yoga and the like. No real advice though for how to come up with a plan to get you to financial independence without a payout from work or a rich husband. Over the years I kept coming back to that book, but I could never figure out how to get to the place I wanted to be. Not until many years later anyway.

I can’t even remember how I discovered FIRE. I stumbled on The Minimalists by seeing their film on Netflix. From there I think I started seeing links for financial sites and I must have found FIRE from that. Who knows really. What I can’t believe is how long it took me, considering this movement is exactly what I am all about. I’ve long believed that money is a tool to buy you options. I’ve always known that stuff isn’t important to me and that I would rather have more time than more money. I might have lost my way slightly at times, but I’ve always been searching for a way to live my life without being consumed by work.

I might have come to my FIRE journey late, but I’m certainly committed now. My FIRE journey most definitely isn’t the most conventional. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, and am continuing to make choices that are right for me, but most definitely not the most efficient or perhaps even the most sensible. I guess that’s one of the things I love so much about this FIRE movement. Everybody’s journey is different, and that’s ok. We are all aiming for slightly different destinations, and will get there in a multitude of fashions. We’re not all the same, and I think we should embrace that. We can learn from each other, whilst accepting that’s what right for you might feel completely wrong to me. As long as we end up where we want to be and enjoy the ride then it’s all good.

July 2020 Net Worth

It’s time to tot up what I’m worth again. I’ve decided to make a change to how I calculate my figures. I have a defined benefits pension with work that I have never actually included in any of my net worth figures. Considering this is one of the big reasons where I stay working where I am then this seems absolute madness. A big part of my retirement plans centre around the fact that I will have about ten thousand a year from this pension if I can stick it out for another ten years.

As of this month I am now going to include it in my figures. I’m going to take what I have accrued so far, well at least as of my April 2019 statement, which is the most recent one that has been produced. I’ll take that annual figure and multiply it by twenty to give an approximation of what it might be worth once I can start drawing it. To complicate matters slightly I’m going to include it in some of my figures, but not all. I like to be able to separate out what I could theoretically cash in right now if I have a mid life crisis that necessitates me liquidating everything.

The plan for now then is to include the DB pension in the overall net worth figures, but also separate it out along with the house equity to give me an idea what things look like if I want to stay living where I am but cash everything in to clear the mortgage. This allows me to see how close I am to being mortgage neutral, which is an important target for me. I don’t want the pension muddying the waters on those figures, so it’s getting put to one side for that calculation.

As usual last month’s figures are in brackets for comparison. Clearly it’s going to look like I’ve had a massive bump up of my net worth from last month to this. I wish. At least moving forward it will give a more realistic picture of what my finances look like. I definitely need to have a think about how to represent my finances in a way that more reflects my own situation.

As I have the DB pension giving me a half decent starting point I really need to find some way to measure how I’m doing in making up the shortfall in what I’ll get and what my living expenses are likely to be. I have a bit of an idea in my head about how much I need to live on and so how much I need to grow my investments by. I think I’m on track, but I definitely need to flesh that out a bit.

I really need to start measuring my savings rate as well. I had a bit of a shot at calculating that, but things are all going to change come October when maths boy goes off to university and my maintenance halves. My tax credits and child benefit have already reduced down, so I’m living on slightly less than before, but still trying to save just as much. At the moment I’m struggling to see how I will manage to keep saving the same amount, but no doubt there are some savings that I will manage to make. That sounds like a bit of a project for me towards the end of the year, to measure things a bit more and see how I’m doing towards the targets that I have in my head, but not recorded anywhere.

Enough of my thoughts about new things to record. Without further ado here are July’s figures and how they look in comparison to June.


Mortgage £97,790.14 (£98,281.81)


Cash £33,612.22 (£36,507.46)

Defined Benefits Pension £123,683

AVC’s £6,440.24 (£5,567.13)

Shares £37,782.93 (£36,282.17)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £451,518.39 (£328,356.76)

Net Worth including house equity

£451,518.39 – £97,790.14 = £353,728.25(£230,074.95)

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

£77,835.39 – £97,790.14 = -£19,954.75(-£19,925.05)

The cash amount went down not because I went on a spending spree, but rather because I took about three thousand from my savings and bought some more index trackers. I had too much cash on hand as a result of the further advance that I did earlier in the year on my mortgage. I’ve still got enough savings sitting there that I can get my boiler replaced when it finally gives up the ghost and get my en-suite sorted when I’m more comfortable with having people working in the house when it’s not strictly speaking necessary. As far as getting a new car is concerned, I’m still of the mindset that as I’m currently driving about three miles a week to go to Aldi then the new car can probably go on the back burner for the foreseeable future.

The fact that I’ve spent £3,000 on new trackers along with my normal £600 that I do anyway, means that the increase in my shares value is particularly poor. The index trackers are actually doing pretty well. As usual it’s my work shares that are letting the side down. If I could go back in time I would tell my younger self to forget about doing share saves and just stick the money in index trackers. Unfortunately I don’t have a tardis in my back garden, so I am where I am. My plan is to pretty much just forget about the work shares and maybe at some mythical point in the future they will recover. In the meantime I will just keep sticking as much as I can into my Vanguard ISA. By the end of the tax year I will be up to the maximum £20k, which is pretty good going. That’s going to be a one off though, as it includes the money from cashing in two share saves, transfers from my savings as well as my normal monthly amount. I’m definitely not going to be in a position to do that every year.

I’m reasonably happy with this month’s figures. My AVC’s and index trackers are doing pretty well. The work shares are down about £2k, but what’s new there? I’m quite comfortable with the strategy that I’ve got going now. I’m slowly getting a bit more diversified away from having everything in work shares. At some point I’ll offload a big chunk of these, but not just now. Even if they start paying dividends again next year that would be a bit of a help and a reason to keep hold of them until the price is very slightly less dire. I’ll keep plugging away with my index trackers and hopefully they will continue to rise in value. I was happy to see this month that the combined value of my AVC’s and trackers are now worth more than my work shares. That definitely feels like I’m making some progress on project diversification.

Reflections On Lockdown

It feels like things are changing now, so it’s been making me reflect on how lockdown has been and lessons that I want to take from it. I feel almost embarrassed to be saying this, but I’ve actually enjoyed lockdown. I mean, clearly not the death, worry and not being able to see friends and family. That part has sucked, but there’s definitely been a lot of good things to come out of this awful situation.

Now that things are starting to open up and get back to some sort of normality, is it just me that has decidedly mixed feelings about this? Clearly there are some things that I am desperate to get back to. Seeing family, parkrun, races, not needing to be constantly looking when you’re about and about to make sure nobody is within 2 metres of you. There are also lots of things that I really want to keep. As we come out of this really weird situation I really hope that we take the opportunity for some self-reflection and work out what’s really important to us and what has just been a distraction all along.

For me I’ve realised that I have a lot of the basics covered already. I’m pretty clear on my values and know what adds value to my life and what is a waste of my time, effort and money. My family unit is pretty strong. Despite sharing lockdown with two teenage boys we are closer than ever. There’s been very little conflict and we still enjoy spending time together. We’ve given each other plenty of space. We’re really lucky in having a good sized house and a nice garden. I’ve got four bedrooms, so even with using one as an office there’s still lots of room for us all to spread out. I do appreciate how fortunate I am. My sister shares a two bedroom flat with her twelve year old son. They are very cramped in there and there has inevitably been a few fallings out between the two of them.

What I really hope is that as things start to ease up things don’t just go back to how they were. I really see this as a chance for the earth to heal itself from all the damage that we’ve inflicted on it. If you’d said to us last year that planes wouldn’t be flying, the roads would be empty, shops would be closed and we would mostly all be working from home then we’d have thought that you were crazy. There’s no way that would ever happen. But happen it has.

The Country’s Finances

I talk to lots of people every day with my job. It seems to me that the world has pretty much split into furloughed and still working people. I’ve had to come off Facebook as I think if I read one more post about how bored someone was then I was going to scream. I realise it must be incredibly difficult if you’ve got nothing to do and you’re worried about the money side of things. It is however incredibly frustrating to keep hearing about how bored people are when you’re rushed off your feet working harder than ever to try and keep up with customer demand.

The health aspect is obviously awful, but the economic fallout is almost as bad. This pandemic has starkly demonstrated the fragility of people’s finances. People were phoning us almost immediately the crisis hit to say that they were struggling to pay their bills. They literally were one pay away from financial disaster. These are not just people earning minimum wage. Some of these people earn really good money. It doesn’t matter how good your salary is though if you spend all of it and more. If you have a pile of credit card debts built up over the years on all the essential things that you absolutely had to have, then when you get furloughed you’re going to have a problem.

What’s Going To Change?

Working towards FIRE is a real benefit when something awful like this pandemic hits. We’re already used to living on less than we’re earning, so if needs be we can look for other ways to adapt our finances. Clearly the financial buffer is a real asset, but perhaps even more so is the adaptable attitude. I’m really not great with change, but striving to reach FIRE has made me examine my finances more closely and look at different ways of doing things. Although I haven’t made any big changes as a result of CV19, I do feel that my frame of mind is slightly different than it was. Something truly shocking has happened to our world, which has resulted in wholesale change in the way we live our lives. Hopefully lots of these things will only be temporary deprivations, and we’ll gradually get to reintroduce some of the fun things that we’ve all been missing.

I honestly believe that things can’t just go back to how they were. I hope not anyway. For me there’s been a fundamental change in how I think about the world. It’s almost as though one of the worst things I could possibly have imagined has happened, and yet the world continues. Coming out of the other side how could we possibly go back to the hum drum worrying about trivial things. We will, of course we will. It’s only natural. I really want to try not to though. I’m not sure if it’s as a result of working from home, but I’m finding it much easier to focus on what’s really important to me. I’m not saying I’m not getting caught up in the day to day stresses of work, because there have certainly been plenty of those. I am however finding it slightly easier to remind myself that as long as my boys and I are healthy, happy and flourishing then there’s not really too much else to worry about.

Paying For Petrol For The First Time In Forever

I had to fill the car up the other day for the first time since lockdown. I’ve realised during this time how well set up I am to barely need a car at all. I’m definitely driving less than I was before. I’ve introduced a new personal rule that on any under 3 mile journeys I won’t use the car unless there’s some sort of a constraint such as taking the kids, heavy shopping or not having the time to go under my own steam. I walked to B&Q yesterday to pick up an order. It’s only a mile and a half from my house, and I definitely would have taken the car in the past. Instead I walked down, picked up my 5 litres of decking stain and set off with a fairly heavy rucksack for the walk home. Yes it was a bit uncomfortable walking home with that on my back, but I backpacked around Spain carrying all my camping equipment many years ago and survived that, so some decking stain definitely wasn’t going to break me. I still haven’t got into using the bike for errands, but I have bought a bike lock and started scoping out quiet routes into town. It might well be baby steps, but if it stops me having to replace my car for a while then that’ll all be to the good.

Holiday Time

I’m just coming towards the end of a week’s holiday. My teenagers are spending two weeks with their dad so I get to be just Sassenach Saving, and not Ms Mum as they call me. I had planned to spend this week studying Spanish, watching some more of the free Yale online lectures, running, walking, cycling, writing, reading etc etc. I would needed to have been off for about a month to get through everything I had planned. Instead things panned out quite differently. I was video chatting with my folks last Sunday and mentioned that I was off work for a week. They turned to each other and suggested that I create a bubble with them so I could come down to visit. They’d been reluctant to do this before as they were shielding due to their age. They were feeling a bit more confident as time passed and were now happy for me to visit.

I threw some things in the car, actually paid out for some petrol and had a beautiful sunny drive down the A68 to start my trip away. It was so lovely to catch up with them. I also managed to do some socially distanced socialising with my sister and nephew. I was only down there for a few days, but we managed to pack quite a few things in. Video chatting is great, but it’s no substitute for actually being able to see someone in person and make sure that they actually are doing ok. I felt much reassured after having spent some time with them.

My sister loves to walk so she found a lovely route for us to do on the beautifully named Red Kite Trail. Named as they released 94 red kites in the area. We didn’t manage to see any that day, but my sis repeating the route a few days later and was lucky enough to see one soaring above her. We did manage to see rabbits, deer and a particularly acrobatic squirrel leaping from a post to the branches of a tree, along with the usual farm animals. The whole thing was twelve and a half miles, including taking the scenic route along the river (it’s not getting lost if you get to enjoy beautiful scenery whilst enjoying a slight diversion).

Another day myself and the folks had a trip to the seaside. We drove the route of the Great North Run, as clearly that’s not going ahead this year and I’ve had to defer my place till next year. Right from the start on the central motorway, all the way along to the front at South Shields. I have to say it was much easier in the car, but even then it did seem quite a long way. I don’t very often get to drive the route of one of the half marathons that I’ve run, so it really brought home how it is a pretty big achievement to run one. I tend to think that a half is not that big a deal. You know what, it kind of is.

We spent a few hours in South Shields where the sun was very conveniently shining for us. Even so the place was reasonably quiet and it was easy enough to keep our distance from other people. We had fish and chips and I kept up my usual tradition of paddling in the sea, getting soaking and realising that I probably should have brought a towel with me. I really should learn the lesson that if I’m at the coast I’ll be going in the sea come what may. It was even pretty warm, which is not something you can usually say about the sea on that particular stretch of coastline.

So all in all it was a fantastic break away. I caught up with family, did some great walking and managed to get out and about whilst remaining safe. It did make me realise that although I’ve enjoyed staying home during lockdown I really need to make myself go out. I have hermit tendencies that can get out of hand if left unchecked. Sometimes you need to get out in the world and experience new things and places.

For me the biggest things to come out of lockdown are I want to keep working from home, driving less and focussing on reaching FIRE. I need to make sure that I also remember to make time for fun activities and catching up with family and friends. I love to learn and get exercise, but I also need to make sure that I actually see people. It’s absolutely fantastic that I can now run with my friends again. That is such a big part of my life, and things seemed slightly out of balance when I was having to run on my own. I think moving forward getting enough social interaction is going to be crucial to ensure that homeworking is sustainable for me, particularly as my boys grow up and fly the nest.

Lockdown Easing

It feels that we’re starting to shift towards a slightly different mentality when it comes to lockdown. Things are beginning to open up a little bit, but more than that, people’s thinking seems to be changing. It’s noticeable in the supermarket where you see people huddled together chatting rather than getting in and out as quickly as possible to avoid infection. Whether that’s right or not is a can of worms that I think I’ll leave well and truly alone. It seems a bit quick to me, but I can just follow my own rules and leave other people to behave as they see fit. I’ve absolutely no interest in becoming the lockdown police.

I’ve got the added complication that I live in Scotland but all my family are down in England. So I’ve had the joy of trying to decipher two lots of rules. For my day to day life it’s Nicola Sturgeon that I’ve been listening to. Whatever you think about her politics I think most people would agree that she’s handled this situation well. She’s been a voice of reason and not scared to say the unpopular things that keep us safe. She’s not been afraid to say that although Boris is saying it’s now about staying safe not staying home, I’m telling you to stay home. And if you haven’t yet seen the voice overs that Janey Godley does of her speeches then check them out, as they are brilliant.

I’ve been trying to keep up with things south of the border as well so that I can figure out what’s going on with my family, make sure they’re safe and crucially trying to figure out when I can get down to see them. I have to say I’ve found a lot of Boris’s advice pretty much incomprehensible. Safe to say I’m very glad I’m in Scotland and following Nicola. She’s come across as very statesman like through all this. Or should that be stateswoman like? Either way she’s been reassuring, confident and told it like it is.

We’re not out of lockdown yet, but we are starting to see some easing. We still can’t get haircuts yet, but that should be coming in soon. I’ve become a dab hand at cutting my fringe, but that’s about as much as I’ve dared. My kids are looking slightly like shaggy dogs, but they’re not bothered and I quite like their somewhat hippy looks. The most exciting thing for me is that we can now meet up with two other households outside. And of course we all know what that means. I get to run with friends again. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed that. I totally lost any motivation to run at the start of all this, but I’ve gradually got back into it. I’m totally unfit still, but at least I’m consistently running again. I’ve had two runs now with other people and it was just the nicest thing ever.

I’ve really been missing parkrun. That’s usually such an important part of my weekend. I’d done lots of touristing to various parkruns, but when it was clear that we were about to have the final parkrun for the foreseeable future then I headed back to my local park for the final Saturday and volunteered as a marshal to cheer everybody on. This gave me a chance to catch up with everyone and get more or less caught up on my volunteering debt before everything stopped. That was a perfect morning, made all the more poignant for knowing that we wouldn’t be seeing each other for some time.

This morning I was out for a run with a friend. We were doing a 10km route that used to be a race a few years ago, and was being put on as a virtual lockdown challenge by our running club. You do it whenever you want during the allocated week and post your results. I’ve been studiously ignoring these challenges as I didn’t want to be reminded how unfit I was. This one looked fun though, so the two of us plodded around and put the world to rights. It’s amazing how much I’d lost the ability to talk and run at the same time. Not if I wanted to be able to breathe too anyway. I used to be quite good at that, so that’s definitely a skill I need to relearn.

The route was three laps starting and finishing in the park where parkrun is normally held. We met at 9 and were chatting before we got started. Then we saw a runner we knew so had a lovely talk with him. As we were running through the park on each lap we kept seeing people we knew from parkrun and more general running circles. Then it twigged that it was the anniversary of that particular parkrun, so lots of people were doing a pretend parkrun to celebrate. At the end we were talking to loads of runners we knew. It was at that point I realised just how much I’d missed the social aspect of running. Going out for a run is a lot of fun, but add friends into the mix and it becomes this amazing experience.

I really can’t wait for parkrun to get going again, but I fear that’s a long way off. Parkrun HQ have said the a whole country needs to be in a position to put on the event for any to be able to start. We’re classed as part of the UK, so although we might be able to cope locally with the numbers involved, some of the bigger ones down south would be swamped and unable to do any kind of social distancing. Bushy, where it all started routinely gets massive numbers, so there’s no way it would be feasible for them. I’m doubtful that we’ll be back this year, but I’d be delighted to be proved wrong.

At the start, like everyone,I was feeling pretty stressed about the pandemic. I was still going into the office, in a cubicle crammed in with people everywhere. I work in a call centre environment, which is hardly ideal for social distancing. They were paying lip service to keeping people apart. We had a one way system in place in the office, which was ridiculous and did absolutely no good. Teams were having meetings in the stairwells to say they were socially distancing, but all that meant was you had to walk past them to get to your part of the office.

Eventually they realised that there wasn’t enough space to have everyone in at the same time, so I came back after lunch one Monday to be told to go home for the rest of the week so that everyone could be spaced out in the office. That lasted until the Wednesday when they realised that they needed everyone working, so just come back the next day and it would be fine. Then we had a confirmed case in the building so were closed for two days for a deep clean. I had a few day’s holiday after that and I was dreading going back into the building.

There are fifty five of us working in my particular area. We are crammed into cubicles with a walkway between the middle of our part. There was no way to be two metres apart. They were claiming it was fine and that we could still use the walkway without there being any problems. How ridiculous this assertion was has now been demonstrated by the fact that they have now decided that out of the fifty five of us that work in that part, we can safely accommodate six of us in the office.

When I was due to go back on the Monday I decided that I wasn’t prepared to work there any more. They were trying to get laptops for everybody so that we could work from home, but it was taking some time to organise. I sat down with my good old spreadsheets and worked out how long I could live on my stash if I had to. I’d recently done some extra borrowing on my mortgage as I knew at some point I was going to need to replace my car and the boiler. I’ve also not been able to use my en suite since it leaked through the kitchen ceiling last year, so at some point I’ll want to get that sorted. I decided to borrow an extra £20k on my mortgage.

I’m very fortunate to have a base rate mortgage through work, so at 0.1% I’m not too worried about increasing my borrowing. I’ve just stuck it in a cash ISA for the meantime and it’s making me more than it’s costing me. As they’re due to withdraw the staff mortgage for any new borrowing at some point this year I figured it would be good to take advantage of that whilst it’s still available. I’m actually wondering if I shouldn’t maybe take some more and just tuck it away. It goes against the grain for me as I have spent a long time overpaying my mortgage and love to see it coming down, but the numbers don’t lie. Since I’ve done the extra borrowing I’ve reduced the amount that I’m overpaying and put that extra money into index trackers again. I would love to be mortgage free, but for now I think it’s probably more important to build my investments.

So my cash figure is almost certainly higher than it should be at the moment. As I’m barely using my car just now it will hopefully not need replacing quite so quickly. I’m going to wait till the boiler completely gives up the ghost. The last time it got serviced the said that they can’t get parts for it any more, and a couple of times a year it stops working for a couple of days and we have no heating or hot water. Cold showers are far from ideal, but most of the time it works, so I’ll just hang fire until there’s no option but to replace it. The en suite I’m hoping I can mostly pay for out of the cash that’s built up in my current account, but I’m in no rush to get that done either.

So the bottom line is that I have a good amount of cash if I needed it to live off. When I worked my figures out on the Sunday night when I was due to go back in to the office the next day I reckoned that on a bare bones survival budget I could probably last for about three years. Clearly that’s a sign that I have too much cash, but it definitely worked in my favour. I wasn’t going to quit the next day, but having that money gave me the confidence to say I’m happy to work from home if you have a laptop for me, but otherwise I’m away home and let me know when my laptop’s here. I’m not sure how comfortable I would have felt saying that if I didn’t have a back up plan of cash in the bank. So even without being financially independent working towards FIRE gave me options that I might not otherwise have had.

When I went in on the Monday though there was a laptop for me, so I was able to head straight home and get set up in the spare room. It took a while to get all the technology working, but it’s gone pretty well. I was initially a little sceptical about how I would find working from home. We already had some people home working before all this kicked off. They had to come in to the office one day a week at least, but the rest of the time they worked at home. I had thought about it when it was offered and I was very tempted. I thought it would be a really good opportunity to see how I found being at home and not having the interaction at the office. This is something I worry about a little bit for that mythical point in the future when I reach FIRE and can quit the rat race. As I don’t have a partner and just have two teenage boys for company in the house I worried that I might find it quite isolating.

Turns out I didn’t need to worry. I love working from home. Admittedly it’s only been a few months, but I’m pretty sure I’d be fine doing this long term. I’m just doing my normal job, taking calls through the laptop, speaking to customers and keying applications for them. I was concerned that I’d find it hard to switch off without having the separation of home and office. Of course I sometimes think about work when I’m off, but then that was the same when I was working from the office too. I love being able to pop down on my break and put the washing out or just sit in the garden. We’ve been very lucky with the weather, but it hasn’t been sunny the whole time and I’ve still loved being at home.

I thought I would miss my colleagues, but no, not so much. I’d like to say there’s no office politics now, but that would be pushing it a bit. We’re operating business as usual. We’re incredibly busy, so there’s a lot of pressure to get on and take calls. Balancing that with dealing with cases for customers you’ve already dealt with is always tricky. So that’s no different. My boss is still on my back about my stats, but it’s a lot easier to deal with that when I’m in my lovely spare room rather than in a soulless cubicle. I’m enjoying the video meetings with my team, but I’m finding that twenty minutes a day is enough contact with my colleagues.

I’m definitely more focussed on my customers. I feel like I’m having better conversations with them because I’m not in such a distracting environment. It feels like I’m doing a better job and my confidence in my abilities has definitely grown. The job I do has a lot of grey areas. We’ve policies we have to follow, but because I’m advising people on their finances there aren’t always definite answers. I used to rely a lot more on discussing cases with colleagues. Now I tend to just read the policy, follow my gut and stick to my guns. So homeworking is a big tick in the box. I enjoy it, I’m managing without the office gossip and I feel like I’m developing new skills.

Like everyone else I’m now finding that I’m getting about three weeks to the gallon with my car. I’ve actually not had to fill up once since lockdown, which is amazing. I didn’t feel like I did an awful lot of driving before, and only used to have to fill up about once a month. These last few months have really made me start to think about my car usage. I had already been trying not to use the car so much for short journeys. As I only work about three miles from home I really shouldn’t be using by car for commuting, but I was. My current thinking is that even once everything starts to ease I’ll just keep home working. Even if I have to go to the office once a week eventually, then that will still cut down my car use considerably. I have even been thinking about cycling to work. It’s definitely doable.

My old bike has been on it’s last legs for a long time now. The tyres and brakes were completely shot and it was a heavy old beast at the best of times. I’d got rid of it just before lockdown hit and the plan was always to get a new one. The start of lockdown seemed as good a time as any to do this, so I got myself a new bike delivered. Just under £200 got me a decent hybrid bike, suitable for road and a bit of off roading too. I was very excited about this and the first day it arrived I got myself out after work to the cycle path that’s only half a mile from my house. It was a lot of fun and over the next few weeks I managed to build up to about an hour’s riding without feeling like I was going to die.

I’m ashamed to admit though that I’ve only been out on it a grand total of five times. I’ve enjoyed it every time I’ve gone out, but I just don’t seem to have got in the habit of getting myself out there. It’s partly because I’m really enjoying my running again, and I never feel the need to exercise more than once a day. I’ve realised that rather than going out on the bike for exercise, I would rather that it was a means of transport to avoid me going in the car. I haven’t actually done anything about this, but I have started thinking about ways to get places I would want to go on the bike without needing to be on main roads. Where I live I’m really central for getting to the local town, so there’s no excuse for me using my car all that much. Definitely something for me to ponder a bit more and think about implementing some changes to the way I get about.

It will be interesting to see what changes come about once we do come out of lockdown fully. No doubt some things will go back to normal, but hopefully some of the more beneficial changes will be here to stay. I need to gather my thoughts on that and see what changes I want to bring about in my life from what I’ve learned from lockdown. Once I’ve come to some conclusions I’ll no doubt share my thoughts.

My First Net Worth of 2020

That’s us well into 2020 now, so time to see how my figures are looking for the first month of the year.As always last month’s figures are in brackets for comparison. I break down my figures to both include and exclude my house equity. The latter figure is to show how I’m doing in my quest to reach mortgage neutrality.


Mortgage £80,767.87 (£81,415.99) 


Cash £14,988.95 (£15,248.10)

Money in share save £15,304 (£14,804)

AVC’s £5,175.36 (£5,055.46)

Shares £33,554.66 (£36,932.81)

House £250,000 (£250,000) 

Total Assets £319,022.97 (£322,040.37)

Net Worth including house equity

£319,022.97 – £80,767.87 = £238,255.10 (£240,624.38) 

Net Worth excluding house equity

£69,022.97 – £80,767.87 = -£11,744.90 (-£9,375.62)

Slightly depressing to see things going back the way. Although actually, when I look at the figures properly it’s really “just” the shares that are letting the side down. Slightly less cash, but hardly anything to speak of. Considering that I had two much larger than normal credit card bills to pay, with Christmas and a couple of trips away for this year to pay for, that’s really rather encouraging. Slightly helped by a couple of hundred pounds for a forced sale of some old work shares. That’s just sitting there in my current account just now waiting for me to have enough for the minimum lump sum payment to my index trackers.

The share save balance has gone up again. One of the schemes has finished now and the money is just there waiting for me to give my instruction to buy and immediately sell to take the profit. I’m waiting rather optimistically for the share price to go up a bit to optimise my profit. Once I’ve done that the money will be going straight into my Vanguard Index trackers.

My AVC’s balance is pitifully low, so just today I’ve increased my monthly contribution to that. Looking at my budgets I don’t have any spare money left over to put more into AVC’s, but I’m working on the philosophy that I always have money left over at the end of the month, so I’ll manage somehow. I’m due a pay rise in April which is what I was hoping to use to put towards my pension. They’ve announced that it’s going to be a flat percentage rise irrespective of performance, which is not how it’s normally handled. Not exactly providing an incentive to go the extra mile. It doesn’t bode well for the bonus either. The pay rise is going to be tiny, but at least it will go towards the extra I’m going to put to my AVC’s.

I’m trying not to get too downhearted about the figures looking worse for this month than last. I need to remember that it’s the big picture that’s important, not the month to month fluctuations. I am definitely going in the right direction, albeit maybe just not quite as quickly as I would like.

Maybe it’s worth a quick look at how I’m doing compared to this time last year. That’s me been recording my net worth for a whole year now, so it will be interesting to see how I’m getting on. So this time the figures in brackets will be from January 2019.


Mortgage £80,767.87 (£89,432.06) 


Cash £14,988.95 (£15,404.81)

Money in share save £15,304 (£9,304)

AVC’s £5,175.36 (£3,278.05)

Shares £33,554.66 (£31,206.67)

House £250,000 (£228,000) 

Total Assets £319,022.97 (£287,193.53)

Net Worth including house equity

£319,022.97 – £80,767.87 = £238,255.10 (£197,761.47) 

Net Worth excluding house equity

£69,022.97 – £80,767.87 = -£11,744.90 (-£30,238.53)

So suddenly I don’t feel quite so bad about my figures. I can see that I am definitely making some progress. If I was just starting out then I would feel fabulous about these figures. As it is, I keep getting frustrated with how long it’s going to take me to reach FIRE. Now saying that, there is one big figure missing from my net worth. My defined benefit pension is going to pay me out £10K a year if I can stick it out until I’m 60. That’s only just over ten years away. So I’m only really needing to bridge the gap between that £10K a year and what I need for a decent life.

Retiring at sixty is definitely possible, whereas before that was just a pipe dream. I would love to stop working at 55, but I just can’t seem to make the figures work for that. I guess if I sold up and bought somewhere smaller for cash then it starts to seem a bit more realistic. Realistically though I will probably still have kids at home at that point, for at least part of the year.

My eldest is going off to university this year. I’m starting to realise some of the financial implications of this. I’ve already had my letter through saying that his child benefit is going to stop. I also get a tiny amount of child tax credit and maintenance, which will reduce. He will still be spending about half the year at home though with the amount of holidays that students get. I’m delighted that he’ll still be spending time at home, but I can foresee that my finances are likely to take a bit of a hit as a result. No doubt I’ll adapt and figure out a way to try and help him a bit with his money and not bankrupt myself in the process.

So my plan for this year continues to be to diversify. I still have a ridiculous amount in shares of the company I work for. Moving forward I’m just taking the profit from any share saves that I do and putting the money straight in to index trackers. I also need to sell off some of the existing shares I have. Again, I’m waiting for the share price to look a tiny bit better.

I’ll keep going with my plan to try and increase my AVC fund so I can use that to get my cash lump sum without needing to reduce the amount I get from my defined benefits pension annually. I’ve got some work I need to do to the house this year. I managed to get my bathroom sorted on the cheap last year, but it is slightly ridiculous that I have an en-suite that I can’t use because of a cracked shower tray and a toilet that doesn’t flush. I might use my dividend this year to put towards sorting that out, rather than reinvesting. It goes against the grain for me, but the only other option is to use up my emergency fund, which I’m loath to do. At some point I’m going to need a new boiler, and my car is not going to last forever. One step at a time though.

All in all then not a bad set of figures. Not as good as December’s, but when you look at how far I’ve come in a year I’m reasonably happy with that. I’ll keep plodding away and try and manoeuvre the eldest moving away to university. The mortgage is coming down steadily, although not as fast as I would like. I would definitely have more freedom if I didn’t have that commitment. I’ve decided though that the seven hundred pound a month I pay towards it is enough. It’s more important to increase my investments rather than reduce that debt. Especially as I have a base rate mortgage. I’ll just have to be patient with that and remember that in the grand scheme of things another ten years of mortgage payments is not the end of the world.

December 2019 Net Worth and Update on End of Year Goals

A very quick round up today to put my December figures out there and have a look at how I got on with the goals I set myself towards the end of the year.

As always last month’s figures are in brackets for comparison. I break down my figures to both include and exclude my house equity. The latter figure is to show how I’m doing in my quest to reach mortgage neutrality.


Mortgage £81,415.99 (£82,063.70)  


Cash £15,248.10 (£15,568.45)

Money in share save £14,804 (£14,304)  

AVC’s £5,055.46 (£4,750.46)  

Shares £36,932.81 (£35,562.18)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £322,040.37 (£320,185.09)

Net Worth including house equity

£322,040.37 – £81,415.99 = £240,624.38 (£238,121.39)

Net Worth excluding house equity

£72,040.37 – £81,415.99 = -£9,375.62 (-£11,878.61)

That was a pretty good month for me. Cash is down a little bit, but considering I paid the balance on my Berlin trip and booked a June break to Fort William for myself and the folks for a trip on the Jacobite steam train over the Glenfinnan viaduct made famous in the Harry Potter films, I think I’ve  done not too badly. My December credit card bill is in now and that’s higher than I’d like it to be, but that’s Christmas for you. It’ll get cleared anyway, so no doubt the cash will be even lower in January, so time for a wee bit of belt tightening.

All the other categories are doing pretty well. As always the one that is pleasing me the most is the net worth excluding the house equity. Barring any disasters I should reach mortgage neutrality this year. I’ve been there before, but to get back there only three years after buying a bigger house and effectively starting again with my mortgage is especially pleasing. The good thing is that although I am undoubtedly spending more on housing than I need to, I have a lovely house to live in just now whilst my boys are still at home. Once the kids are out in the world and living independently I’ve got something there to sell to free up some cash to add to the FIRE coffers.

One of my share saves has now matured, so I’m just keeping an eye on the share price to offload that. I’m going to cash them in and take the profit, which should be a good few thousand hopefully, and invest the whole lot in index trackers. I opened up a Vanguard ISA last year, which currently has just over £650 in it, which was set up using the final dividend payment I received last year on my work shares. I’m looking forward to being able to put a good chunk in there and start the all important diversification of my investments, which is what 2020 is going to be all about.

Now let’s have a look back at how I did on my end of year goals.

  • Go to running club twice a week. Continue to work hard and challenge myself so that I start to see improvements. It’s difficult to quantify what “work hard” means, but I’ll know if I’ve been taking it easy or not. PASS I missed a few sessions due to illness, but I went along to all the ones that I was able to. I have really been pushing myself and there have definitely been some encouraging signs of improvement. I was getting a few comments about how I was running strongly, and I was keeping up with people that I normally only see in the distance, so I’m taking that as a good sign.
  • Watch at least one film every week with at least one of the kids. PASS I didn’t actually track this, but we definitely watched quite a few films, so I’m going to say that I did this.
  • Meet up with my parents in Edinburgh for the Christmas markets and generally a bit of a catch up. PASS We had a lovely day out at the markets and a delicious lunch. Great to get together and spend some time enjoying the Christmas atmosphere in Edinburgh.
  • Keep my Duolingo streak going and get section 3 of the Spanish tree finished. PASS I just checked my streak, and I’m currently on 228 days. I finished section 3 on Christmas day.
  • Get caught up on my volunteering debt with parkrun. PASS I’ve volunteered 6 times now, and did my 69th parkrun on Christmas day. I’m subsequently up to 72 parkruns, so I’ll need to volunteer again to keep my 1 in 10 quota up, but it feels good to have repaid my volunteering “debt”
  • Do one new parkrun. PASS I got Polkemmet done in November, which I really enjoyed. I’m getting ever closer to tourist status, with seventeen completed now, and just another three to go for this particular challenge.

I’d set myself some nice fun goals for the end of 2019, and it was nice to achieve them. I’ve been working really hard at my running, and am starting to reap the rewards from that. I was spending a lot of time working on my Spanish, not just on Duolingo but listening to podcasts and watching TV in Spanish with Spanish subtitles on (Big Bang Theory in Spanish without Spanish subtitles was a step too far for me, I just about had a nervous breakdown trying to keep up with the breakneck speed!)

So overall I think that’s been a pretty solid finish to the year. The Net Worth figures are looking fairly promising, going in the right direction anyway. Now that we’re in 2020 it’s probably time to sit down and assess my finances again. I definitely need to be paying more into my AVC fund, so I need to work out how I can afford to do that. Some rejigging may be required.

I had a nice balance of a fun time at the end of the year enjoying the festivities, but also running and studying reasonably hard. I’ve eaten too much, but I’ve kept running right through the holidays (not that I had many actual days off work, but you know, it’s still holiday time) including a parkrun on Christmas day and two parkruns on New Year’s Day. I even had the chance to try out my new trail shoes on a forest run, so all is good with the world. Hope you all had a great time over the holidays and are raring to go now that we’re in 2020.

November 2019 Net Worth

Time for a quick update on how my figures looked for last month. We’re flying through the year, so it will be interesting to look back to how I was doing at the start of the year compared to where I finish up. For now though I’ll just look at November. As always last month’s figures are in brackets for comparison. I break down my figures to both include and exclude my house equity. The latter figure is to show how I’m doing in my quest to reach mortgage neutrality.


Mortgage £82,063.70 (£82,712.71)  


Cash £15,568.45 (£15,289.89)

Money in share save £14,304 (£13,804)

AVC’s £4,750.46 (£4,573.30)

Shares £35,562.18 (£33,128.09)

House £250,000 (£245,000)

Total Assets £320,185.09 (£311,795.28)

Net Worth including house equity

£320.185.09 – £82,063.70 = £238,121.39 (£229,082.57)

Net Worth excluding house equity

£70,185.09 – £82,063.70 = -£11,878.61 (-£15,917.43)

So I’m definitely happy when it comes to November’s figures. Absolutely every category has improved. I’m not entirely convinced about the Zoopla house estimate that I’ve put in there, but it’s difficult to know how else to judge it. As I’m not planning on moving any time soon it’s not really a vital figure anyway. Even my cash amount increased slightly. I’m pretty sure that will not be the case for much longer, with Christmas to pay for and the final payment for my Berlin trip due two days before Christmas.

The share price is still going in the right direction and giving my figures a much needed boost. My plan is still to sell a good chunk of my work shares and put them in Vanguard Index Trackers. I’ve got my next Share Save maturing in January so I’m going to buy and immediately sell those so I’m not increasing the amount of my work shares anymore. I was doing a few back of an envelope calculations yesterday in a quiet moment at work, and I reckon I can probably fill my £20K ISA allowance before April with my January Share Save and selling some of my other work shares. I’ve only used £650 of my allowance so far this year, so it will be great to get that filled up. It will be the first time I’ve ever been in the position to put the full amount in. I’m just keeping an eye on the share price and trying to figure out a good time to sell.

I’m absolutely delighted to see that I’m getting closer and closer to mortgage neutrality. It was lovely to duck under the £12K figure for the first time this month. I think I like this one so much because it’s something that seems achievable in the short term. My mortgage is still ten years away from being paid off, my investments are nowhere near a position where I’d be able to live off them, but at least I know I could almost cash everything in and be mortgage free. Clearly that’s not the plan, but still, it’s nice to know that it’s getting near to that being an option. I need to work on building my AVC pot up. That’s looking pitifully low. I used my pay rise this year to start that up, and the plan is to do the same next year. Unfortunately it’s not looking like the pay rise is going to be all that great, so I might need to have a think about how I can bump up my contributions another way.

All in all things are looking not too bad in the Sassenach garden. I’ve got Share Saves maturing in January 2020, 2021 and 2023. Based on the current share price I’m due to make just over £10K profit on those three schemes, so I’m happy with that. Clearly a lot can happen in the meantime, but there should be a nice wee boost to my net worth once they have all matured.

I’m already starting to think about next year and things that I want to achieve. I’m not really a big Hogmanay person in the sense of wanting to go out and have a wild old time. Even before I stopped drinking it didn’t really float my boat. What I do like though is the opportunity to reflect on the year that’s just past and looking forward to what’s to come. I enjoy setting up all my budgeting spreadsheets for the year to come. As this is the first year I’ve properly tracked my net worth, I am really excited to play around with the figures and see how much progress I’ve made.

So once Christmas is all done and dusted I’ll settle myself down and have a look at how I want next year to pan out. I already have a few fun trips booked, so I have high hopes for 2020. In the meantime though I’d better go and get myself vaguely organised for Christmas. With teenage kids there’s not too much actual shopping to do, but I’m still fairly sure I’ve been a bit lax in my preparation this year. The tree’s up though and I finally got around to buying lights for outside the house that I’ve meant to buy for a few years now.  They fill my heart with joy every time I see them, so that was money well spent and well worth the wobbling on a chair I did to put them up.  We also have candy canes, many many candy canes, so all is good with the world.