November Has Been A Belter

I’m very excited to be doing this November review. The markets have been kind, and my figures should be good. I’ve been working hard on my goals too, so all in all a great November. Let’s start with my Net Worth 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.

My annual pension statement is finally out (18 months after the last one; you’d think there was a global pandemic or something). The figure I use for my Defined Benefit pension is the annual amount that I would get if I left my company now and then started taking the money when I’m 60, which is the usual retirement age for that pension scheme. I then multiply that by 20 on the basis that I’m hoping to last at least 20 years after I start drawing my pension. I’m actually hoping to get to 100, but I guess that’s not a given. Since I clearly have more service since the last statement was out, my annual figure has increased, so you’ll see that reflected in my Net Worth figures.

Debts

Mortgage £95,822.50 (£96,314.61)

Assets

Cash £34,304.08 (£34,114.80)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£123.683)

AVC’s £9,139.84 (£7,176.61)

Shares £50,102.75 (£40,001.04)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £474,200.27(£454,975.45)

Net Worth including house equity

£474,200.27 – £95,822.50 = £378,377.77 (£358,660.84)

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

£93,546.67 – £95,822.50 = –£2,275.83 (£15,022.16)

Those figures are making me very happy. Of course the work share price has dropped slightly since I updated my spreadsheets, but I’m not going to worry about that too much now. In October I was delighted to sneak over the £40k mark for my shares, and now I’ve broken the £50k mark. I’m aiming for £125k, so it most definitely feels like I’m making progress. My Vanguard index trackers are doing well, and as I say the work share price is much improved. It’s still got a way to go before I break even, but hopefully it’s going in the right direction. The plan is still to sell off the work shares gradually and get everything into Vanguard index trackers within an ISA. A way to go yet, but I’ll get there.

It’s good to see my AVC fund jumping up so much. I’m aiming to get £50k in there so I can take my cash lump sum without impacting the annual amount that I receive. It was great to be able to put in a higher amount for my DB pension figure. It often feels like a bit of a slog sticking with the same company, but I’ll reap the rewards in terms of a bigger pension the longer I can stick it out.

The figure that is making me the happiest out of all of these is the net worth excluding the house value or the DB pension. This is how I measure how close I am to mortgage neutrality. There’s something really lovely about knowing that you could cash everything in and clear the mortgage if you were so inclined. I’m not going to of course, but just knowing that possibility exists would be very comforting. I was in that position previously, but then I bought a bigger house. Very un-FIRE like of me I know. Sometimes I doubt my decision, but mostly I think it was the right thing to do. Particularly with everything that’s gone on this year. Knowing that we have plenty of space has made lockdown much easier. And I’ve always got an asset to sell, or even make money from in terms of renting out rooms in the future.

I can almost touch mortgage neutrality now, and I can’t wait. I am however expecting that I might become mortgage neutral and then go back the way from time to time. I’ve got a fair bit of work I want to do to the house. I’m squirrelling money away for that, and at some point I’ll be splashing the cash to get the work done. That’s life though. It’s not always about having money in the bank and in investments. Sometimes you need to spend a bit to improve your surroundings or just generally to live a bit. Saying that, I’ll probably try and enjoy my mortgage neutrality for a few months once I get there before I spoil it all by spending my cash.

I’m getting used to having less income coming in because my eldest son has gone off to university. My maintenance money has halved and I’m getting less child benefit and working tax credits. Luckily(!) the tax credits were tiny anyway, so I wasn’t reliant on them. On the face of it you’d think that I should be in the same financial situation as before. There’s one less person in the house, so my expenses should drop. It’s a good theory. I am spending less on food etc, but already he’s home for the Christmas holidays and so the food bill has gone through the roof.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Over the whole year the holidays are slightly longer than the term time, so I do still have a decent amount of expenses for him. Add to that the fact that I will be stocking him up with a decent supply of food to take away with him so that he actually has something to eat. I absolutely don’t care though. It’s fantastic having him home for the holidays. I’ll manage the money side of things one way or another. I don’t ever want him to stop coming home. He’s been such a miss. It’s great that he’s out in the world doing his thing, but it’s also brilliant to have him back and that he still wants to hang out with us. It was good to see that my cash has actually very slightly increased this month, despite having less money coming in. This not going out or driving anywhere certainly has some financial benefits.

Let’s move on now and have a look at my goals for November. Here’s a quick reminder of what I had set myself to work on.

  • 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. PASS I’m absolutely delighted with this one. On 1st December I weighed 10 stone 8.6lb
  • 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. PASS I exercised 4 times a week in November, with a total of 17 exercise sessions. It was good that I put in that it didn’t need to be running, as a period of self-isolation after my running partner tested positive for Covid meant I had to do some inside exercise.
  • No chocolate for the whole of November. PASS A couple of sticky moments where I was absolutely desperate for chocolate, but I resisted. What’s more it’s now 10th December and I still haven’t had any chocolate. Hard to see how that could continue for much longer with Christmas just around the corner, but you never know.
  • Finish section 5 of the Duolingo Spanish tree. PASS No problems on this one at all. I’m giving myself a bit of a break on this one now, just doing the bare minimum to keep my streak going.
  • Watch fifteen episodes of 100 días para enamorarnos. PASS I actually watched 19 episodes. This is not even a chore, just something I do for relaxation. I’m still not understanding a massive amount of the language, but it’s definitely helping.
  • Get under 2 minutes for the Rubik’s cube. PASS In November I did the cube in under 2 minutes 19 times. I can’t do it that quickly every time, and I still sometimes forget the algorithms. I’ve definitely done this enough to say I achieved this. I’ve barely picked up a cube for a few weeks now, so I’ll need to make sure I solve it from time to time so I don’t lose the skill.

I have to say that has been an absolutely cracking month for me. I’m not sure if I realised how well I was doing until I sat down and looked at what I’d achieved. It’s not too often I achieve every single goal that I set myself. They were fairly challenging goals too. What’s very good is that I’ve continued the weight loss, exercise and lack of chocolate even after the month ended.

Goal wise for December I’m going to be quite easy on myself. Tis the season to be jolly after all. Saying that I’m keen not to reverse all the good work I’ve done up till now. I’m enjoying eating healthy food, exercising plenty and generally trying to get myself into good shape. I don’t want Christmas to ruin that. I do want to be able to enjoy Christmas though. I have 5 days off work, starting on Christmas eve, so I want to make the most of my time off.

Let’s set a couple of goals for myself for what’s left of December.

  • Get under 10 and a half stone. I don’t need to stay there for the rest of the month, but I would like to at least know that I’ve managed it at least once during the month
  • Don’t start the Christmas eating until the week of the 21st December. Christmas is typically the time for me to eat my body weight in rubbish. I would like to try and a avoid doing that for as much of the month as possible. It’s proving easier than normal with not being in the office and surrounded by tins of chocolates.
  • Weigh less than 11 stone on the 1st January. This should be easy, but it won’t be. I’ve hit that age where I can’t get away with eating rubbish. My body puts weight on really easily, so if I have a week of eating nonsense the scales will reflect this. We’ll see.

That’s it for January. No massive goals, just try not to reverse all the good that I’ve done over the last month or so with my eating habits. I’m looking forward to getting my house looking lovely for the holidays, watching some Christmas films and spending some time with my children. That’s what life’s all about after all, time with the people you love. Have a great Christmas everybody and then we can all start 2021 raring to go and ready to work on our goals to make 2021 the best year ever.

September Net Worth and Goals Update

What Was I Worth In September?

It’s time for an update on my Net Worth figures and to see how I’ve done in working towards my September goals. I’ll also set myself some new goals for October to ensure that I don’t just coast towards the end of the year, which is far too easy to do.

Here’s my figures for September. 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 £96,806.40 (£97,298.42)

Assets

Cash £34,128.46 (£34,066.27)

Defined Benefits Pension £123.683 (£123,683)

AVC’s £7,002.82 (£6,452.88)

Shares £38,766.86 (£38,246.93)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £453,581.14 (£452,449.08)

Net Worth including house equity

£453,581.14 – £96,806.40 = £356,774.74 (£355,150.66)

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

£79,898.14 – £96,806.40 = -£16,908.26 (-£18,532.34)

There’s not really too much to say about these figures. Things are ticking along quite nicely. My cash amount is almost the same. The shares are very slightly up. Rather unusually this month the Vanguard Index Trackers have not increased by quite as much as the extra money I invested. They have been pretty solid for me since I started putting money into them earlier this year, so I think I can forgive them an off month. Luckily my work shares very slightly increased, rather than the drops that I’ve seen during the year. Maybe they’re starting to pick up, or maybe there’s it’s just not possible for them to go any lower!

My net worth excluding the DB pension and the house equity is continuing to go in the right direction. I can’t wait until I get to zero where I can effectively say that I am mortgage neutral. I probably shouldn’t really include my AVC’s in that calculation as they are not strictly speaking something I could just cash in and use to clear my mortgage if I was so inclined. I’ve started doing it that way though, and quite frankly it’s too depressing to remove at this stage and feel that I’m going back the way. I guess they’re my figures so I can include and exclude as I see fit!

It shouldn’t be too long until my shares and index trackers sneak over £40k. I’m looking forward to that and then I can start to aim for £50k. So much of this FIRE business is psychological. You need to give yourself mini-targets to aim for so that you don’t get discouraged. It’s the long game we’re playing, but there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the mini successes along the way.

That doesn’t seem like a particularly exciting month, but at least things are continuing to move in the right direction, albeit slightly slower than I would like. I’m impatient as always and would like to see much bigger improvements in my figures month on month. With the best will in the world though I can only work with the income that I have coming in. For now anyway. More income would definitely give me more options in terms of investing and paying down the mortgage. From a purely financial point of view it makes perfect sense to put more into my pension and take advantage of the tax savings rather than paying off a base rate mortgage more quickly. I would really love to be mortgage free though. I spent so many years trying to pay my mortgage off that it goes against the grain to not be throwing as much towards it as possible. I have to prioritise though. My current strategy is the best way to make the most of the income I have coming in just now. If I can figure out a way to make more money then that will give me the luxury of also chipping away a bit more at the mortgage. That would be the ideal scenario for me.

Progress On My Goals

Not much more to say about my finances for the month, so let’s move on and see how I did against the goals I set myself. A quick reminder of what I was working on.

  • Get 7 hours sleep a night, 5 nights a week. PASS. There’s only been five days this month where I’ve not got at least 7 hours sleep. I definitely feel better for this, and am now in a habit of going up to bed early enough to get plenty of shut eye.
  • Do 4 forms of exercise every week. In an ideal world this would be 3 runs and 1 cycle or walk. PASS (SORT OF) Most of the weeks I did more than 4 lots of exercise. The minimum runs I did in a week was 3, although most weeks it was 4. The only week that let me down was last week. I had a really heavy cold and so did no exercise at all. As I knew I had a really busy weekend dropping number 1 son at uni I was trying to get healthy and was sensible enough to know that running wasn’t going to do me any favours!
  • Complete section 5 of the Duolingo Spanish tree by the end of the year. ON TRACK. I am now on a 497 day streak. I can almost taste the victory of getting to 500 days! I’m well on track to get section 5 finished by the end of the year. In fact at my current pace I should finish around the start of December. I’m really enjoying it and feel like I’m learning a lot.
  • Find a new Spanish series that I want to watch and see at least 2 episodes every week. KIND OF PASS. On paper this is a pass. I found a YouTube series to watch. I’ve see a lot more than the 2 episodes a week, but as they are about 10 minutes an episode this feels like a bit of a cheat. I still haven’t looked for a proper box set. This is mainly because I’ve not been watching any TV and I’ve really been enjoying that. I’ve been reading loads and generally feeling like I’ve been much more productive. However I need to recognise the fact that Spanish TV watching is productive and isn’t the same as just vegging out with no purpose in mind.
  • Keep my car mileage under 69,000 by the end of the year. FAIL. I’m at 69,635 miles now. Although clearly I’ve failed at this one, I’m not at all worried. This is one of those situations where life is much more important than goals. I had to do a round trip of 800 miles to go to a family funeral. My dad had just had an operation and so was in a wheelchair and my mum doesn’t drive. My sister’s car is too small to get a wheelchair in. It was great that I was able to get time off work, have a big enough car to get all of us in and safely transport us all down south. It ended up being a really lovely if exhausting trip. Of course funerals are always sad, but this was a real celebration of my auntie’s life. I got to catch up in a socially distanced way with cousins that I’ve not seen for nearly 30 years. Even the whole road trip with my folks and sister was a lot of fun. You’ve got to look for the positives in life, and as funerals go that was a lovely one. In an ideal world you wouldn’t be having reunions with family at funerals, but as you get older this seems to be one of the main sources of far flung family getting together. I’ll try and stick to under 70,000 miles for the year now. I’m still avoiding using the car for short journeys, which seems like fiddling whilst Rome burns considering my monster road trip, but I can only do what I can do. I’ll control what I can and not worry too much about the rest.

October Goals

So what do I want to work on during October? I’m not going to set myself too much I don’t think. There’s quite a bit going on family wise just now, so I feel like I need to be a bit kind to myself. Saying that, I do like to have something to work on, so here goes.

  • Track what I eat using MyFitness pal. I’ve had a lot of success when I’ve used this in the past. It is a bit of a faff when you first start using it, but once you’ve got some meals logged it becomes a lot easier.
  • Lose three pounds. My weight is all over the place at the moment. I keep losing a bit and then putting it back on again. My weight does tend to fluctuate quite a bit, but this is getting ridiculous even for me. This year I’ve been consistently heavier than my normal post Christmas weight. That’s not good. I really need to do something about that.
  • Complete section 5 of the Duolingo Spanish tree by the end of the year. I just need to keep plugging away at this. I’m on track, but it’s still a big stretch goal so I need to stay consistent.
  • Find a new Spanish series that I want to watch and see at least 2 episodes every week. Sounds familiar, but this is how I’m really going to improve my Spanish listening skills.
  • Learn to solve the white cross on the Rubik’s cube. I have Weenie from Quietly Saving to thank for this one! When I mentioned in one of my previous posts about one of the kids being really good at cubing she told me how she’d learned to do it a few years ago and has now challenged herself to learn the 4×4. I used to be able to do the normal 3×3 cube, but only with the help of my notes on how to solve it. It’s on my bucket list to be able to solve the cube without notes. Weenie has very kindly sent me the instructions that she used. The white cross is the first stage, so I think that’ll be enough for me to getting on with for this month. I think the key is to learn each stage in isolation, practising until it’s in my muscle memory, and then move on to the next stage.
Photo by JTMultimidia on Pexels.com

So after saying that I was going to give myself an easy month, I think there’s plenty there for me to be working on.

September has been a fairly good month. Lots going on family wise, which luckily I was in a position to be able to help out with. Work were good with putting in emergency holidays for me to get to the funeral. I had already decided though that if that wasn’t forthcoming I would just take unpaid leave. Having FU money really is a help even if you aren’t anywhere near full FIRE. Yet more benefits of knowing what you’re worth financially and being aware of what your priorities are and how you can make use of your money to ensure that your actions match what’s important to you.

I’m reasonably pleased with how I’ve done against my September goals. The odd spanner in the works, but that’s how life goes sometimes. I’m going to keep up my focus on getting enough sleep as that’s working really well for me. I’ll keep working away at my Spanish and get started on a TV series to help with my listening skills. I’ll get cracking on learning the Rubik’s cube (whilst trying to avoid getting obsessed, which is what happened about 7 years ago!) I think that’s probably enough to keep me out of mischief. Let me know what you’re working on just now and any tips on how to keep motivated and ensure that you achieve your goals.

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.

Debts

Mortgage £97,790.14 (£98,281.81)

Assets

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.

June 2020 Net Worth

It’s been a while since I’ve put my figures up, although I have continued to track them myself. I’m not quite sure why I’ve stopped posting them, as I always feel that it’s a way to keep myself accountable. I guess I feel that I’m already keeping a check myself, but it can be useful to share them to anybody who is out there and listening. Normally I would put last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. This month however I’ve put January’s figures in brackets just to show what’s happened since the start of the year. 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.

Debts

Mortgage £98,281.81 (£80,767.87)

Assets

Cash £36,507.46 (£14,988.95)

Money in share save £0 (£15,304 )

AVC’s £5,567.13 (£5,175.36)

Shares £36,282.17 (£33,554.66)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £328,356.76 (£319,022.97)

Net Worth including house equity

£328,356.76 – £98,281.81 = £230,074.95 (£238,255.10)

Net Worth excluding house equity

£78,356.76 – £98,281.81 = -£19,925.05 (-£11,744.90)

There’s probably quite a few things to say about these figures. So first up the mortgage. Clearly from what’s showing above I have borrowed more money on the mortgage. There are a number of factors that came into play with regards to this. I have access to a base rate mortgage through work. Only having to pay 0.1% is a pretty compelling reason to borrow money against your house. It is a benefit in kind, so there are some tax implications, but still you know, it’s 0.1% This is a benefit that work are going to remove for any new borrowing this year. What you have at base rate you get to keep, but if you want to borrow extra, move house or don’t yet have a staff mortgage then tough luck, it won’t be available.

On that basis there was an argument to be made for borrowing extra even if it wasn’t needed and tucking it away in a cash ISA and being up on the deal. I am going to need access to extra money at some point. My boiler is not in a brilliant state. We have a few days every year where it doesn’t work, so we have no heating or hot water. Not ideal, but also not a disaster. Rather crucially though they can no longer get spare parts for it, so it’s no longer able to be repaired when it does hit a problem. So far it’s always spontaneously started working again, but I can’t bank on this forever. My en suite is also not useable due to a cracked shower tray and subsequent leaking through the kitchen ceiling last year. Add that to the fact that the loo in there has never really worked. At some point a total redoing of the en suite will be in order. And my car had been proving very expensive to repair, so I was thinking about replacing it. With lockdown and the consequent lack of driving I’m currently rethinking that, but we’ll see.

Anyway I figured that I would not spend all this extra money for as long as possible, but that I would borrow it and stick it away and earn some interest on it and be up on the deal. I’d done the application just before lockdown with the thought that I wouldn’t draw the funds down straight away. Once everything kicked off Coronavirus wise though I decided to get the money in my bank account ASAP in case they pulled extra borrowing. I was worrying unnecessarily, but it was certainly nice to have the extra cash in my account. So that explains the extra cash in my balance.

The next big thing is the share save money. A big fat zero in there. I had two share saves still on the go, but as the share price dropped like a stone and it became clear that it wasn’t going to get anywhere near the option price anytime soon I cashed them in and took the cash without any penalty. This worked out really well as it allowed me to put the money into index trackers. I finally have got myself a bit diversified. Not nearly enough, but I’ve made a really good start. I’m not doing any more share saves. It’s index trackers all the way for me now. I’ve gone from putting £500 a month into share saves to doing £600 month to Vanguard Index trackers. It’s been my plan all along to do this. I don’t know what took me so long, but at least I got there eventually.

Work do a share match where when I buy £30 shares each month they’ll give me £45 worth for free. If I keep them for five years it’s even tax and NI free. I’ll keep doing them, but other than that I’m done with work shares. I just need to offload the ones I have already. Due to the current share price and what I paid for them I can’t quite bring myself to do that just yet, but at some point I’m just going to have to accept that money is gone and it’s never coming back. The index trackers are doing really well, so I’ll be better off putting the money in there. I’ll start to do that gradually to make sure that I get everything in ISA’s.

I had a share save mature in January. I got totally stung on that. I was in the process of transferring the shares to my share dealing account ready to sell immediately and put into index trackers. It took two weeks to move them across and during that time I could see the price getting lower and lower, I went from having £1200 profit to being so much down on them that it barely seems worth selling them now. At some point they will need to go, but the pain is too recent to make it real by selling and realising the loss.

The values of my shares are up slightly from January, but considering that includes the matured share save where I was saving £500 a month for three years, that’s pretty rubbish. The least said about that the better. I’m not expecting the work share price to recover any time soon. There’s always something with it. First it was let’s just get past the PPI deadline then the price will be better, then it was Brexit (remember that?!) and now it’s Coronavirus and the subsequent economic fallout. I feel like it’s the end of an abusive relationship. I can’t believe I stayed with them so long, what was I thinking, my life is so much better without them in it etc etc etc. The final straw was when they announced that they wouldn’t be paying the dividend. I realise that wasn’t their decision, but I was furious as it was actually the final dividend from last year. We went so many years without one being paid at all, so to have it pulled now is doubly gutting. Maybe that means next year’s dividend will be extra good, but I don’t think I can count on that.

The AVC balance is not looking too healthy either. There seems to be a bit of a pattern emerging here! It’s up slightly, but considering I have quadrupled the amount I’m paying into my AVC’s that’s pretty piss poor. My thoughts on this one are to stop overpaying my mortgage so much and take advantage of the tax benefits of the pension. So I’ve borrowed an extra £20K on the mortgage, but reduced by monthly payment by £200. I was massively overpaying the mortgage, and I still am paying about £80 a month more than I need to. At such a low interest rate though it seemed silly to be bringing my mortgage down. I still would love to clear my mortgage, but for now my priority is to build up enough money in my AVC balance to get my £50k cash lump sum at retirement without needing to reduce the amount of my annual pension. I can then use that lump sum to hopefully more or less clear the mortgage. I’m slightly conflicted on this strategy as the mortgage feels like somewhat of a burden, but for now I’m happy to go with the maths.

So to summarise, I owe more on my mortgage, my work shares have tanked, my AVC balance is not great and my net worth is down. On the plus side though I have a lot more cash on reserve at a very low interest rate that gives me scope to do something useful with. I have finally diversified, even if there is still plenty of work to do on that front. I’ve made the decision to not overpay my mortgage as much but instead to put more into my AVC fund. The index trackers I’ve got are doing well and hopefully demonstrating that I’ve made a good decision with my finances. So I’m going to try and take the positives from what could be a very depressing update. Yes the figures are pants, but I’ve finally got my finger out and made some decisions about my money. Whether they are the right decisions remains to be seen, but as always taking action is a good thing. Action conquers fear as they say, so here’s hoping I’ve made some good choices and I’ll start to reap the rewards moving forward.

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.

Debts

Mortgage £80,767.87 (£81,415.99) 

Assets

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.

Debts

Mortgage £80,767.87 (£89,432.06) 

Assets

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.

Debts

Mortgage £81,415.99 (£82,063.70)  

Assets

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.

Debts

Mortgage £82,063.70 (£82,712.71)  

Assets

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.

October 2019 Net Worth And Trying Not To Buy Yet Another Party Dress

Here we go with how my finances are looking for the month of October. 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.

Debts

Mortgage £82,712.71 (£83,459.58)

Assets

Cash £15,289.89 (£15,897.60)

Money in share save £13,804 (£13,304)

AVC’s £4,573.30 (£4,530.85)

Shares £33,128.09 (£30,833.00)

House £245,000 (£245,000) 

Total Assets £311,795.28 (£309,565.45)  

Net Worth including house equity

£311,795.28 – £82,712.71 = £229,082.57 (£226,105.87)

Net Worth excluding house equity

£66,795.28 – £82,712.71 = -£15,917.43 (-£18,894.13) 

I’m pretty happy with those figures I think. My cash figure seems to be getting a little bit lower every month. This seems to be an almost imperceptible creep down the way. With one thing and another it seems to have been quite an expensive year. House and car expenses have been quite high, as have general life costs. I guess that’s just the way it goes sometimes.  The good thing is that I’ve not needed to touch the £10k that I have in a cash ISA, but rather I’ve been using the surplus that I keep in my current accounts. So it could be worse, but I could do with a cheap few months. Seems unlikely with Christmas coming up and the fact that I’ve just booked a trip to Berlin with friends to run the half marathon over there next year. You have to live a bit though, so I’m not going to worry unduly about it.

My AVC’s seem to be faltering a bit, but I’m trying to ignore that and remind myself that this is the long game I’m playing, rather than get caught up in the month to month values. That’s the downside of a monthly catch up on what you’re worth. It’s great for keeping you motivated, but it can cause a certain amount of fixation on what’s happening to particular parts of your money.

Overall things seem to moving in the right direction. The big picture figures all seem to be doing rather nicely (helped by a healthy share price of the work ones that I own). I can see that I’m getting closer and closer to mortgage neutrality, which is something I’m really looking forward to. I’ve got a big birthday coming up next year and it would be lovely to get to the point where I could cash in enough assets to clear the mortgage if I was so inclined. There’s something about a birthday with a zero on the end of it that makes it even more important than normal to have FU money. I don’t think I’ll quite hit the sweet point of mortgage neutrality by the time I get to 50, but I won’t be far off it. Something to aim for anyway.

I’ve started playing around with some graphs showing how my figures have been doing this year, the first year that I formally started tracking what I’m worth. It’s interesting to see the upwards trajectory, despite a few dips over the months. Once we get to 2020 I’ll put out a summary of 2019 showing how I’ve done. It will be nice to have a record of where I started the year and how I got to the end point.  

So overall I’m feeling quite positive about my figures. I feel like I’m haemorrhaging money at the moment, so it’s good to see that things are still going in the right direction. I’ve got some potentially expensive times coming up. My boiler is a little temperamental at times. It doesn’t seem to cope all that well in very cold weather, which is inconvenient in a boiler to say the least! Last weekend it died a death and refused to come on, just when we needed it most. We don’t have an electric shower, so if the boiler isn’t working we have cold showers, which is a character building way to start the day. I’ve managed to coax it back to life, but I think I either need to accept that every few months we’ll have a couple of days without heating or hot water, or bite the bullet and replace it. For now I’m ignoring the issue and hoping that we’ll get another couple of years out of it. At some point I’ll need to address the issue though.

As I said I’ve booked a trip to Berlin with the girls for a bit of a running getaway. I’m very excited about this, but of course it all has to be paid for. Entry to the race, the all-important T-shirt (which you have to pay for separately!) and rental of the chip so you can get a time(I’ll never complain about the cost of entry in to the Great North Run again) comes to just shy of 100 Euros. It’ll be worth it though. This trip is to celebrate a couple of us turning 50 next year, and quite frankly I can’t think of a better way to mark my advancing age.

I was talking to someone at work this week about my finances. I was saying to him that I still can’t use my ensuite, as since the shower tray cracked and the subsequent leak I haven’t got it fixed. He thought I was crazy and should get it sorted before Christmas. I explained that what made most sense was completely doing out the bathroom, as already the loo won’t flush, the wet wall could do with replacing and the floor will need to be changed. I said that I would get it done, but just not immediately. I said that instead I’d spent £700 getting my main bathroom sorted so that we had a shower screen, new wet wall and the existing shower attached to the wall. He clearly thought I was crazy for having an ensuite there but not spending money on it to get it usable again.

Now I definitely will be getting the ensuite sorted, but the money isn’t there in the budget just now. Yes I could dip into my cash ISA money. It’s there for emergencies, and isn’t this an emergency? Well not really. We still have a bathroom that we can use. In our last house we only had one bathroom and we managed just fine. And in this house we also have the luxury of a downstairs loo, so there’s no crossing your legs if someone is in the shower. I’m pretty sure we can wait until next year to get the extra bathroom sorted.

The general consensus at work seems to be that I’m loaded but very tight with my money and won’t spend any of it. There is an acknowledgement that I am in such a relatively good financial position because I am careful with my money, and yet still I get some good natured ribbing for my reluctance to part with my hard earned cash. I’m not tight when it comes to collections for people at work, or paying my share when we’re out, just on spending unnecessarily on myself. I get told on the one hand that I have done so well as a single parent to get myself so financially sorted, but then the same people also tell me that I should spend more on myself. I do get where they’re coming from, but sometimes you can’t have it both ways. There’s only a finite amount of money coming in to the family coffers, so I can either save and invest it or spend it. I can’t really do both. Well I could, but that would slow my plans down, and quite frankly they’re going to take long enough to achieve as it is. I just smile, agree that I should treat myself more and carry on as I am.

I seem to be out of step with much of the world in this way of thinking though. The mind set seems to be I want it now and I deserve to not to have to wait. I think that’s one of the reasons why I like the FIRE movement so much and the idea that planning for the future sometimes means delaying your gratification. And realising that maybe the thing that you think you want/need is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Case in point, Christmas night out dresses. I have a Christmas ceilidh to go to next month with my running club. I found myself in Debenhams (my guilty pleasure) and suddenly I was perusing party dresses. I don’t need another going out dress, particularly as I don’t go out very often any more. Somehow though I was in the dressing room with a very fetching green number on twirling in front of the mirror. I tried very hard to remember what The Minimalists would say about this. I could definitely have done with Josh and Ryan on speed dial to talk me down from that dress. I remembered their rule about waiting for purchases, so I put it back and went home. I then went to my wardrobe and counted the twelve perfectly nice dresses that I already had that would be perfect for a Christmas night out. I’ve decided that next time I think I need a new dress I’ll just go shopping in my own wardrobe.

I’ll continue trying to not buy things unnecessarily, without depriving myself. I’ll spend money on experiences that will enhance mine and my family’s life, and try to avoid buying yet more unneeded party dresses, no matter how pretty they are or how nicely they’ll twirl around when I’m trying my best to follow the directions at the ceilidh. I love a wee ceilidh, even if I didn’t have the advantage of learning all the dances when I was at school. I usually get cut a bit of slack though, on account of me being a Sassenach. Going wrong and getting confused is all part of the fun, especially at Christmas time.

September’s Net Worth

It’s almost time to do the October figures, so I’ll do a quick update on how September went as far as my net worth is concerned. As always last month’s figures are in brackets for comparison. I’ve included my net worth both including and excluding the house equity. The latter figure is to show how I’m doing in achieving mortgage neutrality.

Debts

Mortgage £83,459.58 (£84,107.72)  

Assets

Cash £15,897.60 (£16,157.39)

Money in sharesave £13,304 (£12,804)

AVC’s £4,530.85 (£4,486.86)

Shares £30,833.00 (£31,523.07)

House £245,000  (£245,000)

Total Assets £309,565.45 (£309,971.22)

Net Worth including house equity

£309,565.45 – £83,459.58 = £226,105.87 (£225,863.50)

Net Worth excluding house equity

£64,565.45 – £83,459.58 = -£18,894.13  (-£19,136.50)

Nothing to write home about, but nothing horrendous either. Cash and share values are down a bit. I feel that my cash reserves are getting a bit depleted. I haven’t touched my cash ISA, but I’ve needed to dip into the excess cash that I have in my various current accounts. Life’s just a bit expensive sometimes. I can’t even really remember what I’ve spent the money on, but I do know it’s not been anything extravagant. Continuing car and house expenses. My budgets are still balancing, but I do feel that I’ve been paying out a lot over the last few months.

Saying that, it’s nice to see that my net worth both including and excluding the house equity have improved. There’s not much I can do about the share price, but at least if I keep chipping away at the mortgage and saving each month then I’ll hopefully keep going in the right direction. I think the key is not to get too het up about the volatility of the market. It’s strange times that we’re living in, which is being reflected in the markets. As long as I continue to keep my expenses as low as I can, whilst spending on things that add value to my life (I’m thinking travel and experiences with friends and family rather than hitting the shops for the latest designer whatever) then I should continue to move toward my goal of reaching FIRE at some mythical point in the future.

I think the next focus for me needs to be building my AVC pot to a much better level. I’ve had confirmation from my pension that I can use my AVC fund to take the tax free lump sum from my defined benefits pension, rather than using the funds from the main fund and so reducing down my annual pension amount. So if I can get my AVC fund big enough I can get my tax free lump sum and the higher level of pension that I could expect if I didn’t take the cash. Sounds like a win win situation to me, so now just the small matter of saving enough in AVC’s to make this happen. I think my next pay rise will again be siphoned off straight away to AVC’s before I get used to the extra money in my pocket.

I don’t really know what my finances will look like over the next few years. This time next year one of the kids will have just gone off to university, and the other one will have either one or two years left at school, depending on whether he goes off to uni a year early or at the usual time. He’s banking on a general election brining in a Labour government and a subsequent abolition of tuition fees. He’s in the lucky position of having free tuition fees here in Scotland, but he’d like to go to an English university if he doesn’t need to pay fees. So he’s hedging his bets and waiting to see what happens in the mess that is our political system.

Anyway, either way for a good few years to come I’m going to have kids away at uni, but no doubt spending a good part of the year back home for the holidays (or half the year as us regular folks call it). So I’ll still have plenty of upkeep costs for them, but my maintenance, child benefit and tiny amount of working tax credit will have stopped. My plan was always to do the share saves whilst I had maintenance etc coming in, so that when that stopped I would be able to stop saving to make up the shortfall. Then I discovered FIRE and realised that if I ever want to retire then I need to keep saving and investing.   

So now I’m thinking that I really need to find a way to earn more money so that I can keep saving and working towards FIRE. No doubt there are areas of my life where I could reduce my spending, but whether I’m prepared to or not is another matter. After my recent experience of riding the buses, part of me did think that getting rid of the car might be the way to go. This was reinforced by the very first day that I was allowed to drive again I went out to Aldi and heard an ominous noise coming from the car. New brakes and discs and £200 later I was on the road again. It’s almost like the universe was taunting me with my decision to go back to the car. For now though, no car is a step too far for me.

Rather than cut my spending down further I do think that earning more might be more realistic. I’m working on that, but I’m not sure it’s going to be a quick thing to fix. Maybe it doesn’t need to be though. I’m exploring a few options at the moment, which is quite exciting. I don’t know if anything will come of these ideas, but if I don’t try then I’ll always be asking myself “what if?”

That’s about it for today. I was delighted to discover the extra hour this morning with the clocks having changed. My phone had changed automatically, so I was up at the right time to meet my friends for a run this morning. When I got back home from the run I couldn’t work out why I’d been out running for so long. Turns out I hadn’t changed my digital running watch, so I was an hour ahead of myself. Love a bonus hour like that. I’d love to say I’d done something really productive with that hour, but honestly I just wrote this blog post, which I was planning to do anyway. At least I still have a good bit of the day left to enjoy.

August 2019 Net Worth Figures

Last month was not so great for the net worth figures, so let’s see how we’ve done for the month of August. As always I have put the previous month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I show my figures including my house equity, which is always a nice figure to see, even though I know that I’ll always need somewhere to live, so it’s not a true reflection of what I have to live on. I also show the figure excluding the house equity but including the mortgage. Although this seems counter-intuitive, as without the house you wouldn’t have the mortgage, I include it to show how I’m doing in my quest to become mortgage neutral.

Debts

Mortgage £84,107.72 (£84,843.68)

Assets

Cash £16,157.39 (£15,750.70)

Money in sharesave £12,804 (£12,304)

AVC’s £4,486.86 (£4,217.63)

Shares £31,523.07 (£27,982.60)

House £245,000  (£245,000)

Total Assets £309,971.22 (£305,254.93)

Net Worth including house equity

£309,971.22 – £84,107.72 = £225,863.50 (£220,411.25)

Net Worth excluding house equity

£64,971.22 – £84,107.72 =  -£19,136.50 (-£24,588.75)

It’s nice to see a bit of a bounce back of the shares that I own. Last month was a bit of a tricky month, with a big drop in the value of my shares. It’s satisfying to see that this has only been a temporary setback (here’s hoping!) and that things seem to be on the up again.

I’m very happy to dip under the twenty grand mark in terms of how far from being mortgage neutral I am. This continues to be a two pronged attack from me. I’m throwing as much as I can afford towards the mortgage to bring it down and also saving as much as possible to increase my assets. This is a really important target for me. I didn’t formally track my net worth in my last house, but I would periodically do a back of an envelope calculation, and was always delighted to know that my non-house assets totalled more than my mortgage. Psychologically there’s something very comforting about knowing that you could cash things in and pay off what you owe.

Then I decided that I wanted a bigger house for myself and my boys to enjoy now, and to have enough space for them to keep coming home to visit when they fly the nest. I’ve gone back and forwards on this decision about whether it was the right thing to do. We were probably ok where we were, but I’m such a homebody, that I really appreciate the extra space that we have now. And the thing is that I have an asset here that I can sell. There’s no saying that I have to stay put as and when my situation changes. I’ll definitely feel more comfortable though when I’m mortgage neutral.

Pensions, Pensions, It’s All About The Pensions

It’s nice to see my AVC contributions growing there. I don’t pay a lot towards this, it was basically just a pay rise that I got a year ago that I decided to put into AVC’s before I got used to having the money. As I’ve got a defined benefits pension that I don’t need to pay into, I’m in a reasonably good position. Saying that, because the company screwed us over big time as far as this pension is concerned, it’s nowhere near as good as it should/needs to be. So my plan is to try to enhance this pension with AVC contributions and shares.

I was blindly paying AVC’s without much thought having gone into it. This month I decided I needed to do a bit of research, so I’ve been ploughing through some rather heavy documents figuring out what charges I’m paying, looking at how I’ve got my money invested and what my options are when I do finally pull the trigger on work. I was pleasantly surprised on the charges side of things and I already knew that I needed to diversify the investments as it’s all UK based at the moment.

My plan on the pension side of things is to rejig the investments a bit to get a bit of diversity in there and to contact the pension company to ensure that my understanding of what happens to my AVC pot when I retire is correct. It looks as though I can put my AVC balance towards my cash free lump sum on my main pension, so that I’m not taking as much cash out of that side of things and so keep my pension income as high as possible.

I’ve Finally Embraced Index Trackers

I’ve opened up a Vanguard index tracker ISA this month and have put in the money I received from my dividend payments. At just over £600 it’s not a massive amount, but it’s a start. The next two sharesaves that mature I’m buying and immediately selling to get my money along with the profit, and that’s going straight into the index trackers too.

Water, Water Everywhere But None Of It Covered On The Home Insurance

I’ve got a bit of an expensive time coming up. I’ve had some home emergencies this month, with a leaking toilet downstairs and then a more serious problem with the ensuite shower developing a crack in the shower tray and water coming through the kitchen ceiling. Luckily I realised the ceiling was sagging ominously, so managed to poke to a couple of holes in it to avoid total collapse. I seem to have got to it just in time.

I thought I might be covered on the home insurance, but it seems not. There’s a £500 excess for water escape anyway, so it probably didn’t make much sense to claim. I’m not great at DIY, so I got my handyman round to have a look for me. The ensuite basically needs a fair amount of work to get it fit to use again. As the toilet in there is such a shocking design it can’t cope with a single sheet of toilet roll, there’s an argument to be made for starting from scratch with it. I’d keep the shower and shower screen, as they are fantastic, but other than that it’s basically a new bathroom that’s needed.

I’m not wanting to shell out for that just now, but we do need a bathroom that we can all use, as up till this point we’d all been making use of the ensuite as the shower in there is amazing. The plan that I’ve come up with is for him to sort out my main bathroom. Just now it’s only tiled half way and only has a hand held shower and no shower screen. He’s going to take off the tiles, put up wetwall, attach the shower to the wall and put up a shower screen. Total cost under £700. He’s also shaved a little bit off the bottom of the downstairs loo door which would no longer shut because of the leak. That means we can now use it again, and we’re just going to live with slightly wobbly floor tiles that have lifted because of the escaping water.

At some point I will get the ensuite done properly, but in the meantime at least we’ll have a fully functioning main bathroom. Oh, and at some point I’ll get something done about the kitchen ceiling. I’ve got a dehumidifier going to dry it out, but actually it doesn’t seem too bad, and I might even get away with just paining over it. Disaster averted. I always meant to get the main bathroom done at some point anyway, so this has at least forced my hand. Hopefully this won’t impact on my figures too much for next month. These things happen when you’re a home owner, and at least I have the money there to make use of.

Generally speaking I’m really happy with the figures for this month. They’ve definitely perked up a bit since July. There are still changes that I need to make to my finances, but I know what they are and I just need to wait for the right time as far as the share price is concerned. A little bit of tweaking to do with my pension, but nothing too drastic. I seem to have things fairly well automated, which for me is probably the key to being consistent. If things happen automatically with my money without me being involved then all I need to do is set and forget. That’s the plan anyway.