February Review

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I use that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.

Debts

Mortgage £88,443,23 (£88,933.02)

Assets

Cash £26,496.43 (£26,841.91)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s £17,360.11 (£18,132.06)

Shares £75,798.37 (£82,111.70)  

House £278,089 (£269,000) 

Total £535,329.91 (£533,671.67)

Net Worth including house equity

£535,329.91 – £88,443.23 = £446,886.68 (£444,738.65)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£17,360.11 – £88,443.23 = -£-71,083.12 (-£70,800.96)

We all know the markets are down. The world is going to hell in a handcart and there’s not much we can do about it. Apart from some minor adjustment to my strategy, which I’ll talk about in a moment, I’m just carrying on the same as always. Yes my shares are down, but then that’s the same for everybody. I’m still putting money in each month to investments, so no change there. The one good thing about the state of the markets is that it seems to have cured me of my daily habit of checking my Vanguard account. It used to be my treat to myself after work. It’s more trick than treat now, so funnily enough I’ve not checked it for weeks!

Based on recent Bank of England base rate increases, including yet another one yesterday, I was starting to get a bit jittering being on a tracker mortgage. Yes, it tracks the base rate exactly, so for a long time I was only paying 0.1% It’s hard to argue with that. We now have an alternative staff mortgage which is a discounted fixed rate. If you go over to that you can never revert back to the base rate tracker. I absolutely love my  tracker mortgage, but this month I bit the bullet and moved over to the discounted fixed rate. I’ve tied in to a 5 year fixed rate at 1.49% Considering the base rate is already up to 0.75% I’m more and more convinced I’ve done the right thing. There’s no way I’ll be in a position to pay my mortgage off before the five years is up (I wish!) so I reckon it’s a good call. I feel like I’ve future proofed my mortgage nicely there and it will help me sleep at night without worrying about future rate rises.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

As a result of that application I found out the index valuation for my property rather than relying on the Zoopla estimates that I’ve been using up till now. Not that an index val is necessarily all that accurate, but I’m happy to go with the higher figure. As my plan is to use the cash lump sum from my AVC fund to repay my mortgage when I retire I have slightly increased the amount of AVC’s I’m putting in each month. I can’t really afford an increase, but I’m sure I’ll manage somehow, I always do!

Not much else to say really. The figures are rubbish, but in the grand scheme of things there’s more important things happening in the world. At least I’m not getting bombed, so I’m counting my blessings. I’m readjusting my mindset to a potentially slighter later retirement age. I was thinking 58 was definitely possible, with 57 being potentially achievable with a following wind. I’m now thinking that maybe I should pace myself for retiring at 60, and if I can go earlier then fantastic. I think if I have the expectation of going at 57 and then I have to work an extra 3 years then that will feel awful. Much better to over achieve I think rather than grumping my way through an extra three years of work that I didn’t think I was going to have to do.

Without further ado let’s move on to how I did in February against the goals that I set myself.

  • Continue to follow my marathon training plan PASS I’m now half way through the plan and although I’m slow as anything I’ve done all the miles that I’m supposed to up to this point
  • Find an ultra training plan and figure out how to combine this with the marathon plan PASS I’ve found a plan with the best name in the history of the world. It’s the couch to 50k plan. My race is 55k, so I need to tweak it slightly, but I’ve started already and so far am managing to combine the marathon and ultra training
  • Walk at least once a week PASS I’m doing twice a week. Once for 90 minutes and one for just under an hour. This is not a chore, I absolutely love it. Particularly nice now the nights are getting a bit lighter
  • Do 2 lessons a day on Duolingo Spanish PASS I’m doing great with this. I’m really enjoying it and feel that I’m definitely making some progress
  • Watch at least 4 episodes a week of Betty en NY in Spanish PASS I actually watched more than this. This has become my go to boxset. Crucially I don’t have an English language boxset on the go, so if I fancy some down time watching telly I just stick this on.
  • Finish setting up spreadsheets with alternative retirement dates and how much I need to have in investments (Finally a FIRE goal, yay!) ALMOST! I’ve done up to retiring at 56. I’ve still got the retire at 55 spreadsheet to do, but quite honestly that is such a fantasy spreadsheet that it’s barely worth doing. I’ll get around to it at some point, but honestly there’s no rush
  • Go to the cinema and watch The Godfather (It’s always good to have a fun goal, and considering how much I love this film I have to take advantage of it being on the big screen for an anniversary showing) PASS And I even saw the second one at the cinema too. I didn’t manage to make it there for the third one, but it was fabulous to be back at the cinema

Reading that back I’m pretty chuffed with myself. I’ve worked hard this month. I do feel that I’ve pretty much just worked, run, done Spanish and slept. My house is chaotic, I’m constantly chasing my tail and despite getting to bed early I feel like I’m not getting enough sleep. I’m doing it though. I’m on track with my training plans and as long as I can stay injury free I should be good to go with both the marathon and ultra.

There’s not much time in my life for much except work and running just now. My goals for March are going to reflect that, so they’ll be very similar to last month’s

  • Follow marathon training plan
  • Follow ultra training plan
  • Complete half marathon race
  • Trip to Ipswich to do parkrun (sorry I mean to collect my son from university, even if Ipswich is 50 miles in the wrong direction. That is absolutely nothing to do with needing an I for the parkrun alphabet challenge!)
  • Watch 16 episodes of Betty en NY
  • Set up retire at 55 spreadsheet
Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

That’s more than enough to be getting on with. There are only so many hours in the day after all. 2022 seems to be turning into the year for running. I’ll focus on that, get some of my 60 for 60 goals ticked off and then turn my attention to other things next year. I probably need to stop entering so many races though. It’s starting to get beyond ridiculous. I’m sure there’s worse hobbies to have though.

January 2022. Running, Eating, Spanish and some FIRE Stuff

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I use that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.

Debts

Mortgage £88,933.02 (£89,423.23)

Assets

Cash £26,841.91 (£27,620.56)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s  £18,132.06 (£18,246.40)

Shares £82,111.70 (£82,183.43)  

House £269,000 (£269,000) 

Total £533,671.67 (£534,636.39)

Net Worth including house equity

£533,671.67 – £88.933.02 = £444,738.65 (£445,213.16)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£18,132.06 – £88,933.02 = -£70,800.96 (-£71,176.83)

Cash is down a bit yet again. Life seems to be very expensive at the minute. Car repairs, insurances, trips away, lots of petrol for yet another big long trip to Cambridge to drop off uni boy. You know what though? Life is for living. The car repairs I could do without, but the trip to Cambridge was brilliant and the more things like that I can do the better. I’m not frittering money away on nonsense. I’m spending money on things that I need or experiences that I want. I’m not breaking the bank and I still have plenty in savings, so I’m not going to worry too much. Not very FIRE of me, but what the hell!

Photo by Aleksandr Neplokhov on Pexels.com

Considering the state of the markets just now I’m fairly happy with my investment figures. Down very slightly despite me having paid another month’s worth of money in, but it could be a lot worse. Given the recent Bank of England base rate announcements I’m slightly jittery about the amount of mortgage debt I have. I’m sticking with my decision to barely overpay my mortgage and stick the money into my AVC fund instead. Unless interest rates get ridiculous I’m happy this is the right route for me. Time will tell I guess.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

January has gone fairly well. Mum and dad came up to stay for a week which was lovely but quite full on. I was working, but we managed to get plenty of walks and talks in. I’ve lived on my own (well with the kids) for so long I find it quite exhausting having other people in the house. It’s made me realise how much I value my own company and time to myself. Saying that we did have a great time and it was lovely to spend time with them.

I’m well in the swing of half and full marathon training now. In terms of the number of weeks I need to complete on my marathon training plan I am now a quarter of the way through. Of course the miles really ramp up the further you get through the plan. In a moment of rash confidence I have signed up for an ultra marathon in the summer. An ultra is anything longer than a marathon, in this case 55km or 34 miles. Having said last year that I thought I should stop doing the longer races as I kept getting injured, I now have 2 halves, 1 full and 1 ultra marathon race this year.

Doing a full marathon and an ultra is on my 60 for 60 list, so it’s not completely come from nowhere. My thinking was if I was training for a marathon then I might as well combine that with training for an ultra. Having signed up I’m not quite sure how compatible the training is going to be. In an ultra the idea is that you cover the miles as efficiently as possible. So you walk the hills and run the flats and downhills. You also eat as you go, so I need to practice fuelling on the go. How bad can it be??? I go from complete and utter exhilaration at the thought to total terror at getting lost in the woods and never being seen again.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

I didn’t set specific goals for January, but this is what I wanted to work on.

‘A trip to Cambridge, start my marathon training plan and get my eating sorted and my weight back to  where it usually is. I also want to finish unit 6 of the Spanish Duolingo course.’

I had a great trip to Cambridge and I am well in the swing of my marathon training. The eating is a little bit all over the place. I’m doing a bit better now, but it’s not been great. My weight has fluctuated quite a bit. I started HRT this month, so I’m going to go with that’s the reason. I’m not quite sure it is, but it’s possible I guess. Either way we’re mid February now and I’m less than half a stone from my ideal weight. I’m trying not to focus on that too much. I want to eat for my health and not for my weight. Saying that I really don’t want to be dragging excess weight around with me when I’m running long distances. I’m working hard on my Duolingo Spanish. I don’t know what I was thinking saying I could finish unit 6. Getting unit 6 and 7 is realistic by the end of the year, so unit 6 is going to take me a while. I’m enjoying it though and still feel that I’m making some steady progress.

For February I don’t think it’s going to be a massive surprise that running features quite a lot. Here’s what I want to work on

  • Continue to follow my marathon training plan
  • Find an ultra training plan and figure out how to combine this with the marathon plan
  • Walk at least once a week
  • Do 2 lessons a day on Duolingo Spanish
  • Watch at least 4 episodes a week of Betty en NY in Spanish.
  • Finish setting up spreadsheets with alternative retirement dates and how much I need to have in investments (Finally a FIRE goal, yay!)
  • Go to the cinema and watch The Godfather (It’s always good to have a fun goal, and considering how much I love this film I have to take advantage of it being on the big screen for an anniversary showing)

That’s plenty for me to get cracking with in February. Work is busy with lots of new things for me to learn there. Managing work, getting my runs in, not eating too much rubbish and getting plenty of sleep . If I manage all of that then I’ll be happy.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com

A Quick December Review

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I use that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.

I didn’t do an update for November. My laptop had finally died a death that even my home grown tech support couldn’t fix. I can’t complain too much as he managed to eek an extra year out of it for me before it gave up the ghost. I have finally got around to getting myself a new laptop so I am good to go again. I won’t bother doing my figures for November, but instead will just jump straight to December with October’s figures in brackets for comparison. Quite frankly as 2021 is done and dusted now it seems a bit pointless to do a double month update.

Debts

Mortgage £89,423.23 (£90,408.16)

Assets

Cash £27,620.56 (£28,252.00)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s £18,246.40 (£16,754.95)

Shares £82,183.43 (£80,026.26)  

House £269,000 (£269,000) 

Total £534,636.39 (£531,619.21)

Net Worth including house equity

£534,636.39 – £89,423.23 = £445,213.16 (£441,211.05)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£18,246.40 – £89,423.23 = -£71,176.83 (-£73,653.21)

I’m happy with those figures. My shares and AVC fund combined have gone over the £100k mark for the first time, which is lovely to see. The next step is to get the shares alone to £100k as the AVC fund is allocated to pay off my mortgage when I stop working.

My cash amount has gone down a little, but not nearly as much as I expected it to. Two years after a flood from the ensuite into the kitchen I finally have a working ensuite bathroom again. It is absolutely fabulous, and I am so happy that I got it done. I had allocated money from my savings for the work, but at the last minute my parents transferred a chunk of money over to me to pay for the majority of the work. I was really surprised and absolutely delighted. Their thinking is I might as well have some money from my inheritance now rather than waiting until they kick the bucket, hopefully many years down the line. I also bought a new laptop, but didn’t spend a fortune on that.

Having dropped quite a bit last month, my share figures are looking nice and healthy again. I’m definitely going in the right direction. On paper my budgets don’t really work, so I’m not quite sure how I’m managing to keep investing the amount that I do. I guess Covid can have some financial advantages as I’m still not doing all that much that involves spending money. I’m not sure quite how sustainable my investing level is longer term, but I’ll keep going as long as I can.

I have booked a weekend away to York for myself and my folks for later in the year, which was expensive, but should be a great trip away and worth the money. I’ve also booked a ticket to go and see the Scotland’s Strongest Man competition in the summer. Again I’m trying to have some events in the diary so I have things to look forward to. Crucial in these continued strange times.

In terms of how I got on in the latter part of the year, it was probably a bit of a mixed bag. I got back on the phone at work speaking to customers again and remembered that there’s lots of parts of my job that I do actually like. Although I’d much rather be at FIRE and able to fill my days with activities of my choice, actually what I’m doing in my day job can actually be quite fun at times. I’ve managed to deal with my anxiety and start actually living my life again, rather than just surviving. That’s been a bit of an adjustment after purely focussing on my mental health for a good few months there. It’s good to get a bit more balance in my life even if it sometimes feels a little overwhelming getting back in the thick of things.

I just read back my October review and saw that my running was going really badly and my eating was in a great place. I have to say that’s totally reversed now. I’m loving my running and am doing plenty of it. My eating on the other hand is not in quite such a good place. You know though, Christmas!! I’ll really need to get back to a place of healthy eating again, but as I have my folks here for a week on holiday it’s not really happening just now.

In January I want to continue to focus on my running. I have a half marathon in March and a full marathon in May. The half is easy enough, but I’ve only done one full marathon before and it was a bit of a disaster. I’m determined to do better this time. I’ve found a training plan that I’m happy with and I start it next week. In the meantime I’m running plenty and building a really solid base of fitness. I just need to stay injury free, get plenty of sleep and sort out my diet again.

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

I’ve got another trip to Cambridge this month to deposit the eldest back to uni. That will allow dad and I to do the final parkrun in Cambridge itself. I’ve got a bit of a plan put together for parkruns this year. I should hit 100 parkruns in total around easter time and am going to almost be there with the A-Z challenge. You have to go abroad for a Z, but I should have the UK ones done this year. The fact that I have got my parents a trip to York with me as their Christmas present is completely coincidental. And the fact that we will be there on a Saturday morning and dad and I will be able to collect a Y parkrun is neither here nor there!

Photo by Peter Sutton on Pexels.com

I think that will be enough for January. A trip to Cambridge, start my marathon training plan and get my eating sorted and my weight back to  where it usually is. I also want to finish unit 6 of the Spanish Duolingo course. That should be enough to keep my out of mischief for now.

More Treat Than Trick For Me This 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 track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I use that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.

Debts

Mortgage £90,408.16 (£90,900.44)

Assets

Cash £28,252.00 (£28,202.74)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s £16,754.95 (£15,346.81)

Shares £80,026.26 (£73,460.94)

House £269,000 (£269,000)

Total £531,619.21 (£523,596.49)

Net Worth including house equity

£531,619.21 – £90,408.16 = £441,211.05 (£432,696.05)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£16,754.95 – £90,408.16 = -£73,653.21 (-£75,553.63)

That’s a very pleasing set of figures. The markets very kindly did a big jump up just as I was working my monthly figures out. I’m very happy with that increase in the value of my shares. Of course since then the work share price has dropped again a bit, so next month’s figures might not be quite so impressive. For now though I’m happy with the increase. Nice to see the chunk of money that I put in from dividends and the sale of some of the work shares doing so well.

I always like to have arbitrary targets to aim for, just to break up the monotony of striving for FIRE. There’s a few coming up that I have in my sights. My mortgage will duck under £90k next month. Still far too high for me to feel complacent about, but I can see my plan working of paying into my AVC fund rather than overpaying my mortgage. Saying that, all this talk of increasing interest rates is making me somewhat jittery, but in the grand scheme of things rates are not likely to change enough for me to adjust my strategy. Investment wise I’ve got £45k in my Vanguard account, and it will be nice to see that hit £50k. And when I combine my shares and AVC fund I’m just shy of £97k. It will be lovely to hit £100k as psychologically that is such a big barrier. A few things there for me to reach in the hopefully not too distant future.

I didn’t set myself any goals for October and I’m going to continue in that vein for November too. I’ve got an ongoing battle with my mental health, which is taking all my focus for now. I made some really good progress this month, returning to work on a phased return. I’m back to full time hours from next week and and back on the phones then too speaking to customers again. It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride getting back to work, but it’s an important step in me learning to live with this anxiety for the time being until I hopefully get back on a bit more of an even keel.

The main thing want to focus on is my health again. The positive that I can take from the difficulties I’ve been having is that I am really drilling down on what is important for my health. I’ve talked a fair bit over the last few years about how important I feel sleep is for our health. That belief hasn’t always translated into me actually going to bed early, but I certainly have recognised how much better I feel when I get more sleep. Getting enough sleep is no longer an optional extra for me. A combination of my feelings and the medication I’m taking are making me absolutely exhausted. It gets to 8.00 and I’m thinking “how soon can I go to bed?” I’m sure I won’t always feel like this, but for now sleep is absolutely crucial for me. I use a sleep tracker and during October there were only four nights where I didn’t get at least eight hours sleep. I’m still exhausted all the time, but at least I’m giving my body the best possible chance to deal with everything that is going on.

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Similarly my eating is going really well. Again this is something I have repeatedly set myself goals around. My weight has fluctuated my entire life, and whilst most people would say I was slim and not notice when I put weight on, for me it’s been a big issue. For now I am not beating myself up about what I eat, but I am focussing on eating plenty of fruit and veg and avoiding sweet food. Without really trying I have lost a reasonable amount of weight. I’m only a couple of pounds away from the lowest my weight ever goes. I feel trim and most importantly it’s not feeling like a struggle. I didn’t consciously set out to lose weight. It sounds ridiculous, but I just started buying more nice healthy food and stopped buying myself sweet treats. We’ll see if I can keep this up once I’m back to dealing with customers all day long and working full time hours. I’m quietly confident. It feels like something has changed. I’m eating for my health rather than for my weight. Of course it could just be stress and the medications causing me to lose weight, but hopefully not.

Photo by Foodie Factor on Pexels.com

My running on the other hand is not going so great. I’m still going out, but only for 3 or 4 miles at a time. Since I went on Prozac I don’t seem to be able to run to save my life. My legs feel sluggish and the anxiety is causing me difficulties in regulating my breathing. It seems unbelievable that I managed to pull the Great North Run out of the bag just back in September. I’m not going to worry too much about this. I don’t have any races until May. I’m treating running as a form of therapy just now. My fabulous running friends (well, you know they are actual friends but we met through running and it’s our favourite thing to do together) are making sure that I get out so that I get some exercise and chat about how I’m feeling. They really are outstanding.

I’ve got a couple of trips out this month. I’m through to Edinburgh with one of the kids for a symphony concert and I also have some comedy to go to with a night out to see Chris Ramsey with one of my friends. It’s nice to have a couple of things to look forward to, and I might even get my favourite boots re-heeled, and possibly even my first haircut in over a year. I’m hoping that’s a sign that I’m starting to feel a bit better and ready to start participating in the world again. Here’s hoping!

Running the Great North Run and September Net Worth

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I use that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.

Debts

Mortgage £90,900.44 (£91,392.92)

Assets

Cash £28,202.74 (£29,026.93)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £15,346.81 (£15,431.04)

Shares £73,460.94 (£71,318.81)

House £269,000 (£269,000)

Total £523,596.49 (£515,430.38)

Net Worth including house equity

£523,596.49 – £90,900.44 = £432,696.05 (£424,037.46)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£15,346.81 – £90,900.44 = -£75,553.63 (-£75,961.88)

There’s a few things to say about these figures. I received some dividends on my work shares which I reinvested in index trackers. I also finally bit the bullet and sold a chunk of my work shares and reinvested the money in my Vanguard account. Work does a share match scheme which I’ve been doing since it was introduced years ago. If you keep them for five years you get free shares and they are tax and NI free. I sold about £4k worth, which was all of them which I could get rid of without having any tax and NI implications. The cost to sell is on a percentage basis as you’d expect, with a minimum charge of £20, so selling this many made sense as it cost me the same to sell this many as it would have done to get rid of a smaller amount. Also the amount I then put into my Stocks and Shares ISA means that by the end of the tax year I will have filled my tax free allowance. Happy days.

I topped up both the dividend money and the share sale cash with some money from my current account so it was a nice round figure I was putting in. As a result my cash amount is down slightly, but with more than enough there for an emergency buffer. I’ve still got too many work shares, but it certainly feels good to have made a start on diversifying. I’ll not be doing any more this tax year, but the plan it to repeat this process in subsequent years. I have one load of the work shares in a S&S ISA, which I might keep just in case they go back to their old levels, but the plan is to keep moving more over to my Vanguard account. We’ll see what happens to the markets, but I’m reasonably happy with my timing of this shuffling around. The work share price was not too bad, and as we know the markets generally are pretty rubbish, so hopefully I’ve bought index trackers whilst they were on sale. Time will tell, but either way I’m happy with the strategy.

My annual statement is out for my Defined Benefits pension and so my annual amount that I’ve accrued has increased. This is now reflecting in my figures above. It’s nice to see it increasing, but frankly it’s slow progress. I’ve only got 9 years to go until my official retirement age, but they really seem to penalise you if you go early. I’m sure there’s some jiggery pokery I can do nearer the time with going part time if I can afford it to keep me hanging on right till the bitter end.

Not much else to say I don’t think. Things are just plodding on, mostly in the right direction. My AVC fund is slightly down, which is annoying, but in the grand scheme of things not the end of the world. Everything is taking a long time to get to where I want them to be, but I think I just need to get used to that fact.

I didn’t really set myself any goals for September. I wanted to complete the Great North Run and try and sort my mental health out, which has taken a bit of a battering. I did complete the Great North Run. I had a fantastic day and was really pleased with my time. I was aiming for around 2 and a half hours, and I managed to sneak under 2 hours 10 minutes. It wasn’t a PB, but I felt really strong and I absolutely loved it. It was strange not finishing in South Shields due to a Covid forced change of route, but it was brilliant getting to run over the Tyne Bridge twice and running through Newcastle city centre was really special. The consensus seemed to be that it was a harder course than normal due to the amount of hills at the end. It was very hilly, but I have to say I really enjoyed it. The support was brilliant as always and I managed to spot family and friends out on the course who had come out to support me. I’m already signed up for next year.

Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

As far as my mental health is concerned, that’s still a work in progress. We’re living in strange times, and I am finding that increasingly difficult to deal with. Things are not terrible, but they’re not great either. Hopefully I will start to feel better soon. In the meantime I’m incredibly grateful for the support of my family and friends. It’s really true that it’s when things are tough you find out who’s really there for you. Having never really had to deal with mental health issues before I’m gaining an appreciation of what so many people have to live with.

Now is not the time for me to be setting goals for myself. I’m trying to eat healthy foods, I’m sleeping loads and I’m trying to get out running a couple of times a week. I’m learning a bit of Russian in a half hearted fashion and spending time with my youngest before he goes off to uni next year. That’s enough for now. I will get back to smashing my goals, but for the rest of 2021 health is the priority and not putting any unnecessary stress on myself.

August Review

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

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I used that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.

Debts

Mortgage £91,392.92 (£91,885.11)

Assets

Cash £29,026.93 (£34,725.71)

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

AVC’s £15,431.04 (£14,534.87)

Shares £71,318.81 (£66,050)

House £269,000 (£250,000)

Total £515,430.38 (£495,964.18)

Net Worth including house equity

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

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freezing February Review

Let’s have a look and see what my Net Worth is looking like for February. I’ll also have a look at how I got in with the goals I set myself for February and set myself some things to work on in March.

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I’ve also got my Net Worth not including the DB Pension or the house equity, which seems barmy, but is really just to represent how close I’m getting to mortgage neutrality.

Debts

Mortgage £94,345.97 (£94,838.70)

Assets

Cash £35,523.72 (£34,965.12)

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

AVC’s £10,814.45 (£10,307.70)

Shares £52,479.19 (£49,209.19)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

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

Net Worth including house equity

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

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

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

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

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

Mortgage Neutral, whoop whoop!!

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

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

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

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

Let’s get some goals set for March then

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

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

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.