January 2021 Review

That’s January well and truly done and dusted. A quick update to see how my Net Worth is doing and how I did with working towards the goals that I set myself. We’ll start with what my money looks like for the month.

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 £94,838.70 (£95,330.62)

Assets

Cash £34,965.12 (£34,503.66)

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

AVC’s £10,307.70 (£9,826.32)

Shares £49,209.19 (£49,278.21)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £475,135.61 (£474,261.79)

Net Worth including house equity

£475,135.61- £94,838.70 = £380,296.91 (378,931.17)

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

£94,482.01 – £94,838.70 = -£356.69 (-£1,722.43)

So how do I feel about those figures? Not too bad I think. The shares have gone down slightly, which considering I invested another £675 in January isn’t exactly ideal. It’s not horrendous though. It would be nice to be back above £50k again, but I’m sure I’ll get there sooner rather than later. I’m happy to get the AVC fund above £10k, especially as that means I’m now a fifth of the way towards my target. Cash has gone up again a little bit, which it really shouldn’t be doing now that I have a cut in my maintenance due to my eldest having gone off to uni, albeit only for one term before lockdown forced him back home to study online from his bedroom. (Cambridge’s loss is my gain, I’m delighted to have a temporary reprieve and have him back in the house!) I had my lowest ever credit card bill in January, coming in at around £250. Considering I pay for everything except my utility bills with this card and clear it each month this is definitely good going for a family of three that includes two teenage boys who are eating machines.

I am so close to being mortgage neutral now that I can practically taste it. Only £356.69 stands between me and mortgage neutrality. When I mentioned this to the kids one of them offered to transfer me the money just so I could get there straight away. I politely declined. This is going to be all the sweeter for waiting for it. Hopefully next month if I can keep my spending under control.

This month is already proving more spendy than last, but with a bit of luck it won’t stop me hitting the magic number for mortgage neutrality. I’ve had to get a bit of work done to the house as some mice got in. I got a company in to sort them, which luckily was included in the home emergency cover that comes with my bank account. What isn’t included is the mouse proofing of the house that I needed done. This is classed as essential work, so I was able to get my handyman out to fill holes and he’s going to come back to fit a guard to the bottom of the garage door to stop them making themselves at home in my garage. All in it’s only costing me £150, which I think is money well spent for the peace of mind it’s giving me. I know I shouldn’t freak out about mice in the house, but I totally was. I’ve calmed down now, and fingers crossed the problem is sorted now. I’ve also ordered a new desk for home working. The one I’ve been using is far from ideal and as my plan is to work from home indefinitely it makes sense to get an optimal home office set up. So more expenses than usual this month, and I even had to put petrol in the car for the first time in months, but it still shouldn’t be horrendous I don’t think.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

I’m finding I’m getting a bit bored with checking what I’m worth. I still like doing my monthly Net Worth, but the obsessive checking of my Vanguard account is not really doing it for me any more. I think this is a good thing. It’s probably a sign that things are going ok in my life and I’m not looking to FIRE to save me. I do find that the worse I’m finding work the more I check my spreadsheets. I think I’m finally coming to the conclusion that I have things set up as they should be and it’s just going to take time for me to get where I want to be. I don’t have a magic wand that’s going to suddenly make my spreadsheets say something different. Yes, I need to tweak my investments, but I have a plan in place for that. Constantly logging in to my accounts doesn’t improve my life and it just makes me frustrated that I’m not where I want to be yet. I’m slowly weaning myself off my post work checking of my Vanguard account habit!

  • Get under ten stone. FAIL I got down to 10 stone 3.8lb. Although I didn’t achieve this one I’m actually not too bothered. I really want this to be a long term goal more about health than a particular number on the scales. I had a few weeks where I went slightly off the rails, but even then my weight only went up to ten and a half stone. This is a lot better than I was doing last year, and I’m eating really healthy foods, which is kind of the point.
  • Weigh less than ten and a half stone on the first of February. PASS On 1st February I weighed 10 stone 5.2lb. That’s a good weight for me, and I would be delighted to be able to keep it around that level.
  • Exercise four times a week. PASS I’ve finally admitted that I have an injury. It’s been going on for months, but it’s been getting worse. I managed to get a phone appointment with the doctor who referred me to the physio. The good old NHS. Within 24 hours of me phoning the doctors I was in seeing the physio. She examined me and the good news is it’s not osteoarthritis, which was looking like a possibility. Instead it is bursitis. Annoying, but something that should go away. I’ve got exercises to do and I need to rest, so sadly no running. I was told to rest for four weeks, but it’s been that already and there’s not much improvement, so I’ll keep being a good Sassenach and not run for now. I have however been walking plenty. I’ve done a few too many long walks that have not done my hip any favours, but there have been some perfect walking days with sunshine and lots of snow. What can you do? Sometimes you just have to get out there. I’ve been managing to get out at least four times a week for a walk, and I’m really enjoying it.
  • Finish cien días. FAIL I’m not sure why, but I just didn’t do this. I’m still not feeling all that motivated with my Spanish studying, and this has been yet another Spanish thing that I’ve just not done. I’ve got back into it now, so I’ll put this as a goal again to get it finished off.
  • Pick another Spanish series to watch. PASS A bit of a cheat this one, as I didn’t actually do this during January, but it is done now. As I’ve still not finished Cien días yet I have plenty of time for this, but I now have Velvet added to my Netflix list. On the Duolingo forum this one seems to get good reviews, so I’m hoping I enjoy it when I eventually get round to watching it.

So most definitely a mixed month for me. And to be fair that is what it felt like. It has felt really hard to go in to this lockdown. I was hoping to get down to Newcastle for a weekend where my support bubble is. With the border effectively being closed and universities closed my trip down south to drop my son with my parents for dad to take him down to uni was never going to happen. Until this got cancelled I hadn’t realised how much the thought of that was keeping me going. It took me a few weeks to adjust, but I think I’ve more or less bounced back now. And as I said it’s lovely to have him home, although for his sake I hope he gets back to uni soon

So I suppose I’d better set some goals for February. It’s a bit of a cheat this really as we’re so far through February already. I have got some things that I’m working on, but to be honest for now it’s mostly just about getting through lockdown and making sure everybody stays safe. Mum and dad have both now had their first vaccinations, as has my sister as she works for the NHS. I’m really still focussed on healthy eating and making sure that my injury doesn’t mean I stop exercising altogether just because I can’t run. I think quite a few of these goals are going to look pretty familiar, but better late than never if I finally get around to achieving them.

  • Get under 10 stone. As I’ve said before this would really be as low as I would want my weight to go. Even at this weight I still have a belly, but I don’t think that’s ever going to go. I’ve had it my whole life. I really want to focus on eating healthily and feeling good. Weight can be a helpful guide, but it’s not the be all and end all. Saying that, it would be nice to get under the magic ten stone just so I know I can do it
  • Weigh under ten and a half stone on 1st March. Same as before, just to keep me on track
  • Exercise at least four times a week for at least 30 minutes each time. This is especially important now that I’m injured. If nothing else it will ensure I actually get out of the house
  • At least once a week cook a recipe that isn’t one of our go to recipes. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut with what you cook. I’m sure this boredom then leads to snacking and unhealthy choices. I’m really enjoying lots of veggie meals just now, so I’d like to continue exploring new recipes
  • Finish Cien Días. This is definitely achievable. I’m back watching it again, still struggling to understand it, but the only way I’m going to improve is by sticking at it

That’s enough for now for to me working on. I really want to continue to focus on my health. I’m loving all the healthy eating that I’m doing and I hope that I can reap the rewards from this in the years to come. I’ll keep doing my walking until my body is strong enough for me to run again. If I focus on eating well, getting enough sleep and trying not to sweat the small stuff then I think I’ll have the building blocks for a long and happy life. Here’s hoping anyway.

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.

Debts

Mortgage £96,314.61 (£96,806.40)

Assets

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.

Photo by Alexander Mils on Pexels.com

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 Onemillionjourney.com 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.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.