The Evolution of your FIRE Pursuit

I thought it would be interesting to talk about my own changing attitude towards my FIRE pursuit and that it would also be great to learn about yours as well. After all, That’s one of the main reasons for me creating this blog: to share and to learn during the FI journey.

So first off – don’t worry. I haven’t changed my attitude to be anti FIRE… I don’t believe it can’t be done now, it’s crazy, that it’s best to spend it all now – you could be dead tomorrow etc… I have however as alluded to in other posts changed my focus slightly and the specifics of the goal/target has changed. So firstly, let’s start with what hasn’t changed.

  • I am fully committed towards reaching Financial Independence. For me being Financial independent is simply the ability to no longer NEED to earn an income for all my basic needs in life. This includes having a home, paying all essential bills and also having a small amount of discretionary weekly money for small treats.
  • I still aim for the next few years at least to have a savings rate of above 50% of my post tax salary (Currently sitting at 58%)
  • I still aim to reach a £250,000 FI Fund within the next 3 years (Project 2235)

So what’s changed?

I think if I was to sum it up – the strictness of my original approach and ultimate goals has changed. I will now talk about the specific areas I think best highlight these changes and how the evolution of FIRE is occurring for me personally.

The ERE Approach & Depriving yourself


During my early FIRE years, I courted the Early Retirement Extreme movement as it were. I think this was of course mainly due to me trying to speed up the time it would take for me to FIRE. I wasn’t happy with having to wait what I originally had down as 23 years to FIRE. I cut back on so much when it come to my expenses and took seriously even the ideas of not owning a car, biking to work etc. As I discussed in my post on depriving yourself, I really took a good hard look at whether I was perhaps depriving myself with my strict pursuit of FI.

Firstly, I know the feeling of being deprived and judging whether something is or isn’t depriving yourself is a very personal thing. I would never say something is or isn’t as any universal law as each to their own but for me I certainly felt I was depriving myself of some joy and quality of life with how strict I was being. For example I couldn’t give up the benefits of owning a car. I love being able to just drive to and from friends, go to work that’s far away if the job is enjoyable. It would be a huge sacrifice to me if I didn’t have a car.

I now completely spend money guilt free, even large amounts of money on things that will bring me great value and joy. I recently bought a new 4K 65INCH LG OLED TV with a PS4 Pro. Doing that would have left me so conflicted in the past but I made the decision to buy those after a lengthy period of consideration, research and waiting for the right price. I spend more money now on going out to eat and drink at least once per week as I get a lot of joy out of those activities. I no longer think, I should of perhaps invested the difference etc. I make the decision based on the joy to stuff ratio so to speak. I happily spend money to go on multi day trips around the UK and trips to Amsterdam etc as this brings me great joy also. This for me is a big and healthy change as I already invest so much each month…

With this said, I am still very careful with my money. I still buy 20 lots of Branston baked beans (4xcans) when on offer. I still look for deals all over the place and withhold spending money on so many things that my peers spend on without even thinking. I still track money spent to the penny in my spreadsheets and I never waste my money so to speak.

Escape the Rat Race (FI or FIRE?)

I have written before about what I think makes a job good. I went from having a job I really disliked to a job that I now really enjoy. This really has helped change my attitude towards wanting to stop working entirely. I know that not everyone can find a job they enjoy but it is certainly possible to find one. I can no longer see myself retiring at 35 being able to afford the bare essentials in perpetuity. I think if I can keep my current job and things don’t drastically change which I know is of course possible, I wouldn’t want to stop before turning 40 at least. The benefits of FI on its own would be far enough for me as I already feel at this point that I choose to work and that will only get stronger the closer I get to and ultimately when I reach FI. 

The main reason for not wanting to fully FIRE is that work really doesn’t feel like work to me in my current job and I’ve been here 3 years nearly now so I don’t think it’s the honeymoon period either. There’s always things that are annoying, but the good far outweighs the bad. I also think being so far along the FI journey no doubt has helped hugely with this work sentiment as knowing you don’t have to do a job into your 60s or that you could last decades without working right now really takes away a lot of the negatives.

Cast Iron 4% Rule (The FI Fundamentals)

In my years since learning about the the FI movement and the whole concept of being able to live off your money in almost perpetuity if you take 4% of your pot + inflation going forward for multiple decades. I have sold the idea to a few of my friends very passionately. At least 3 of them as a result now invest monthly as do I and are working towards this goal albeit at differing speeds and levels of commitment. 

Setting aside whether 3.5% or 3% is actually the best bet for the future let’s just consider the belief that if you invest in a mix of bonds and stocks, reach a certain amount and then you can withdraw from that without ever having to work again. How much I believe that this is a sure fire thing (pun not intended) has gone from being around 99% perhaps to 90%. This is important because it has changed the degree to which I am willing to put so much on the line to pull the trigger. I like the analogy I heard the once about playing Russian roulette. I will gladly play Russian roulette knowing that there would be 1 bullet in the gun but 9 chances of FI going as planned as long as the bullet would be a strong rubber bullet that would no doubt hurt me but at least not kill me…

This cautious part of me that doesn’t want to put everything on the line for this goal is one of the reasons I own my own home and still have cash in the bank. A lot of people within the FI movement have suggested to me that I should sell my home, invest the money and rent instead to maximise my investing and reach FI quicker. That I should get rid of most of my Cash is King fund and invest this as well. If I truly believe in FI, then why wouldn’t I has been said? I think my answer is exactly that I do believe in FI through investing but not to such a degree I will risk my home and all my cash and put absolutely everything into it so to speak. I still don’t want all my eggs in one basket. I feel very similar to Mr Money Moustache when talks about having several layers of so called protection in case things didn’t go to plan and that he is a slight wuss by some accounts on that front. I use the 4% rule as a general gage of how long my money will last but that is protected with the additional expectation of Inheritances, private and public Pensions not being included in the totals and additionally no hard wish to never earn money again. 

All of this aside, I still fundamentally believe we are investing in humanity and that this will work in the long run. I am investing huge amounts of money every month, I just don’t want to risk completely wiping myself out if I am wrong that’s all.

Static FI Target & Rushing towards FI

My initial FI target when I first got into the movement was £250,000 so that I could live off £10,000 a year. This is still a target of mine with my recent Project 2235 post. This however it not a static target at which point I will pull the trigger on FI. This is just my short term target to get me to that barebones FI achievement. This will feel great no doubt but will not be the end of the story. When I get to this, I will reassess to see if I will then pull back on my savings rate and spend some money on doing up my house inside or buying a new car, pay for a wedding, or go on a world cruise etc. Who knows… I am no longer religiously sticking to a pull FIRE trigger amount or date.

This leads me onto the most important part of my FI pursuit evolution. I am no longer in such a dam rush to reach full FI and/or FIRE. My most important goal is to enjoy the next 3 years and not solely to get to my 3 year goal of £250,000 as quickly as possible in a way that slightly deprives every day living (Similar to only living for the weekend so to speak). This is still a big goal of mine which I am working very hard to achieve and I will still be investing £1500 a month to help achieve this, Its just that I am no longer as desperate anymore to get to the finish line so fast…

I can’t help but think this change in priority or perhaps more urgency is because I am already living through so many of the benefits of FI right now that I am so far down the path, I think if I was to get to £250,000 tomorrow, it wouldn’t make me that much more happy than I am now, and that feels epic…

Thanks very much for reading my article. I’d love to know if your pursuit of FIRE has changed at all or even if it’s more or less identical at the end to how you envisioned it at the start.

Chris @ TheFIJourney

My 3 Year £250,000 Target – Operation 2235

Intro

Hope everyone’s doing well. I have had a few busy months lately and have been focusing quite heavily on side hustles and then back to some career development by pursuing some new certifications in my field. I will do a general update discussing some of this as my next post during a Christmas review most likely :).

Operation 2235 – Intro

Back to Operation 2235… I had to give it a name like that to make it sound cool. It should be considered pretty cool on its own though I know but still there it is…

So there I was reviewing my finances a week or so ago and entering some costs as it were – I still track to the penny and record it against categories such as Going out, Gifts, Food etc. I updated my current portfolio total which I do once a month and it got me going yet again to an online compound interest calculator – oh boy have I visited that site a lot over the years. I put in 5 years in months and 5% as the interest (not 8% accounting for 5% real growth with inflation taken away) and I noticed that my current total was £161,000 and with my recently new monthly investment of £1500 (increase from £1160) I would be on track to hit £250,000 in 3 years time when counting the money I have in my Cash is King fund. This would coincide with me still being 35 years old at this point. 2022 – 35 years old (Operation 2235 :D)

Many years ago when I first started getting into FI, I dreamed of getting to £250,000 (saying Quarter of a million sounds so much better…) which I considered Base bare bones FI giving me the £833 monthly figure at 4% SWR, this would pay for all my current bills and basic outgoings as fortunately I am mortgage free. I dreamed of getting to this figure before I was 40 but originally it was going to take me until 50.. this has since fell due to a good dose of luck and increasing my monthly investments with a couple of promotions along the way.

The Plan

In order to hit my target of the quarter of a million. I need a nice sail wind that I won’t be able to control such as the 2% real growth for 3 years with no bears showing their face. Who knows if this will happen what with what’s going on politically and with the long bull run we have had. Life itself will have to go as I plan also when it comes to my job, health and such and I only mention these things as I am very aware that I can only control so much and even if the wind turns against me, I will still consider this plan a success if I manage to pull off the below;

  • Invest £54000 over the next 3 years (£1500 a month)

  • Do the above without depriving myself whilst still being able to weather some expected unexpected outgoings

Is it Achievable?

Is this target I have set myself achievable? I would certainly say it is yes. The key thing for me that will determine this is that the £1500 monthly figure itself is realistic given the realities of life and my increasing expenditures lately.

With that in mind when I look at this target I have looked at 3 areas financially that I need to ensure are strong. There are of course many other factors such as ensuring I keep my job, working hard etc but financially my main instruments used in this success are as follows:

Expected Unexpected Outgoings Fund

I have always had a £1000 cash expected unexpected fund that I use to make sure my monthly investment amounts are safer from being meddled with due to any number of issues propping up. I currently fund this in terms of replacing it every year so that should I spend the lot, by the next April I will have a fresh £1000 ready. This is done from normal cash monthly interest, the 2 months of council tax I don’t pay and 2 yearly payments I receive for doing a task for family members. Every year for the last 5 years, something has come up using some or most of this money. Whether it’s a large vets bill or to replace a boiler, fridge etc or fix my car. This has always helped me out so this fund for me is a big first defence of not touching that £1500 monthly investment

Big expenses Fund

The next major pillar to the success of this plan is that when it comes to big expenses such as buying that new iPad, new 4K TV, PS5 or yearly trips to Amsterdam and Liverpool etc. I can pay for these things without it impacting the investing. This fund which has been sourced from side hustles (mostly MB) stands at around £7k and will be there to use for these next 3 years. This is a huge relief for me as it means I can still do the things I want to do without yet again impacting this plan.

Non depriving Discretionary spend 

Now for me, this is probably one of the most critical parts of this plan. One of the most important parts of all this for me is that this is a financial plan and goal which of course impacts so many areas of my life. Despite this however, I don’t want to spend 3 years not doing the things I want to do such as having drinks on a Friday, going out for a meal once a week, buying that game or book when I want them or going out on day trips etc. I am still very very careful with my money and I always look for deals and buying food in bulk as an example but I will not compromise on quality of life when there are things that for me really bring great joy. 

For these reasons, I have set a weekly discretionary spend that for me should be enough. It’s slightly higher than I am used to but not much more. This is in part because I have been spending more money on buying gifts for people and going out in the last few months and I don’t want that to stop.

In Closing

I will provide updates on how I am getting along with this £250,000 challenge from now on every quarter at least. I would love to know your thoughts on this and if you could share any of your financial plans however large or small.

Chris @ TheFIJourney

Summer update…

Hope everyone’s doing well and enjoying the summer months. At the very least, most of us can agree it’s going to be a much better commute now that the kids are off school. It makes such a big difference to how long it takes me to get to and back from work… So anyway I just wanted to provide a quick update on how I’m getting on.

Career – New promotion!

I had some really good news at work in that I got the more specialized role with no management responsibilities which was exactly the only kind of promotion I wanted. I really have no attraction to managing people especially those at our place. That would drive me insane as they are mostly a very lazy bunch most of whom or counting down the clock to retirement (albeit not in the early retirement sense hehe) and having to be responsible for them would be very stressful. I would never say never of course but right now, management is certainly not for me.

As my post of what makes a good job detailed, I really enjoy my current job and getting this promotion addressed one of the few faults I had with it which was the pay and contract type when compared with those who do the exact same job. As much as I try not to compare with others, when workers around you albeit nice people on a personal level just screw around most the day with no real care are on much more money with better contract perks, it does get to you at times.

As for downsides, There will be more pressure in this role in ways, however I already felt like I was in a specialized role and went the extra mile so hopefully it will really just be formalizing that contract wise and a lot will stay the same. I was a bit concerned how the others would take my promotion and if jealousy would arise, but the office banter remains the same and that’s so relieving. It’s been funny having new banter related to my new role actually and there’s no malice for sure. As for office politics and being higher up the chain in ways, I fortunately will not need to attend management meetings as my new boss will be the one doing that. Let’s see how it goes, I will provide as it’s still early days for sure..

Finance – No lifestyle inflation…

It’s been very good on the financial side recently. My new job has given me a few extra hundred a month which has helped put me very close to nearly being able to max out the yearly max ISA contribution. Being able to invest so much would of made myself from 6 years ago laugh at the thought. It shows how much things can change with effort, discipline and a helpful load of luck along the way. 

There has been no lifestyle inflation at all, I have put every penny of the pay increase towards investing and that feels good. I don’t feel deprived as I already spend money on things I want which includes the occasional Galaxy S10 and iPad Pro so there’s no being a tightwad. It was amusing though, as many people at work are literally dumbfounded as to why I haven’t bought a new car. It’s time to change your 7 year old car lad… you can afford it now. It’s time to upgrade to a Mercedes or a BMW. It has amused me very much. When I want my next car, I will buy it and it might be a step downward to be fair when I do as I already have a nice car in my eyes. I look forward to the future offers of help financially and concern over what I have got myself into if I have had to step down as it were car wise.

I also decided to pay of the last bit of my student loan which I know in ways should not be classed as debt due to mine being the type that has no real interest but it does mark the first time I am completely debt free of all kinds. That’s a very nice feeling indeed :D. I was unsure as to whether I should as I didn’t before due to thinking my money was being better invested but with ever increasing contributions coming from my new promotion, I just wanted to get the true take home amount with no money took off and I used some cash reserves from matched betting to pay it off which wasn’t really being invested anyway. I certainly don’t regret that and for those that cry ‘What about the opportunity costs…’ – the positive feelings from doing it are worth the loss..

As for my portfolio… I am well on the way to the magical £200k mark of liquid investments. I seem to be matching Weenie very closely which does amuse me :). I am not getting too pleased though as I still feel a decline is inevitable soon so I am more concentrating on the monthly investment as opposed to the total figure as I think that it’s currently higher than it probably should be or will be in a couple years time but who knows eh? Maybe this is the period of steady lower growth that lasts 20 years. I really don’t claim to know.

Side hustles – Matched betting

I have been trialing each way sniping the last couple of months and I am pleased to report that thus far that it is certainly working. I invested £1k into it and have doubled that so far. It has however been a right roller coaster of ups and downs which was to be expected. It is so much less hassle than normal matched betting though and I am fitting it into my daily routine without it being a hindrance. Let’s see how I look in the next couple of months. Below shows an example of the ride during a downtrend…

I am glad I stuck with it as it was certainly nerve racking at times especially when approaching a complete wipe out of my investment.

Personal/fun

I am going to Amsterdam again soon for another trip, pardon the pun. I certainly look forward to that as I will be treating it as a celebration for getting my promotion in a way and also as it’s time to let my hair down as it were.

I have been doing lots of delcuttering lately around my house. I have meant to do it for many years now and never really get passed one big spurt of doing one room and then I just stop and it gradually gets more cluttered over time. This time however I have made great progress and it feels so good having less stuff.. I am trying to get to the point where rooms are lived in and not showroom like which I hate but still very much less cluttered and where everything provides value or a purpose. I certainly do not want to get to less than a 100 items… I just want to get the most out of what I have and enjoy the benefits of having less clutter. Less clutter in the house, hopefully less clutter in the mind.

I think I will leave it there. Hope everyone is doing well. Let me know what you have planned for the summer. How are you all getting on?

Chris @ TheFIJourney

Matched Betting – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Matched Betting – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

I am writing this from the understanding that most readers will already be familiar with what matched betting is. What follows is a frank, honest and sometimes embarrassing account of my experiences with matched betting over the last 3 years. I am going to focus more on the bad and ugly parts as these are what I want to share more so. This in no way is referring to any intrinsic good and bad experiences that everyone will find if they pursue it but is simply my own story as it were… here goes.

The beginning

Roll back the clock around 3 years ago and I was reading some posts from TheFireStarter (as you do…) and I couldn’t help but notice Matched betting as an income source in his monthly reports. This really confused me at the time as I thought ‘The poor guy is gambling? How long will this last!’. It wasn’t for a couple of months and after some email exchanges that I finally realized that it might not be gambling per say. I started reading into it and researching what it was and how it supposedly worked. It really did seem too good to be true at the time and I was hell bent on trying to find the negatives. I was searching for terms like ‘matched betting scam’, ‘matched betting doesn’t work’, ‘matched betting is illegal’ etc… Even though I couldn’t find negatives I still thought to myself, why don’t more people know about this? There’s gotta be some downsides surely? It dawned on me that I had to at least try it to see if it worked for myself. I eventually did the Coral free bet offer, fully understood how it worked in the process and never looked back.

The Good

This has been an incredible side hustle for me. I have earnt more than I thought would be originally possible. It has enabled me to fully pursue my FI targets while still having money for big expenses such as a new phone, tablet and holidays etc. If it wasn’t for the ridiculous profits that TheFireStarter reports, I would feel thrilled about what I have made (shakes fist at you…..). Joking aside. This has been a great side hustle financially speaking.

As for other good things. There is no need to leave the comfort of your own home, you can do this whilst still in your pants as it were sipping a Pina colada (not that I do). There is guaranteed risk free money to be made as long as you do things properly. This last point is where I myself have feel down previously but I will get to that later.

The Bad

I think when I look at my experience with matched betting, the main bad thing that sticks out is how much time it has taken from me when I am doing it. I won’t go into specifics of what particular matched betting I was doing but it certainly would take up a big part of my week especially the weekends. I would be almost engrossed in thinking what matches are coming up, working out my profit pipeline, filling in my tracking spreadsheets etc. I remember once being out having a meal and I was on my phone placing bets and checking scores etc, I got a stern telling off at the time but this is what I was doing for a long period of time. I found it exciting to be fair so it wasn’t like it wasn’t enjoyable but it was distracting me from everyday normal stuff a bit too much. I had a break from matched betting for a good many months last year and I couldn’t believe how much free time I had as a result. It was really noticeable.

The other bad thing for me personally was, should I be doing this? Even if not illegal – the terms and conditions were starting to change to clearly state, you cannot use methods to lock in guaranteed profits etc. You are clearly breaching terms and the threat of withholding winnings is increasing. I guess the is this morally dubious thoughts were appearing. The exchange usually wins and those are likely real people placing bets and losing money after all.

The Ugly

This is the part where embarrassment comes in. I have no doubt that this is down to my personal character traits and failings but this could be helpful for others to bear in mind as it could happen to a small number of us. In typical easy matched betting, there is no real risk or perhaps it’s better to say very minimal risk. There are the risk of errors made by yourself whether it’s reading their terms of offers, placing bets on the wrong team or twice or laying the wrong amount etc. This of course can and does happen the opposite way. I have layed the wrong team and then happened to win that game as well. I have forgot to finish sequential laying an Acca and the Acca has won. My errors going for and against me have probably evened out by now however my own psychological failings could have destroyed me… I don’t say destroyed lightly.

My problem boiled down to the old classic of not accepting your losses. I had a profit pipeline. I expected a certain amount of profit from the different bets I was doing. I feel like I already had counted this money as my own even though I might not have earnt it yet. Most of what I discuss now is going back 2 years ago.

I place the bet on a horse. I am just about to click the lay button on an exchange and the odds disappear…I can no longer make £18 as expected. I place the bet anyway hoping someone will snap it up. Nothing… and the odds that are offered increase. My profit goes down even further. Screw it… I just place the same amount of money on the horse. It’s 17/1 anyway so prob won’t win. I overlay in terms of odds and liability. Guess what happens? The horse wins and instead of £18 up, I am down £18. This annoys the hell out of me. So.. I do a real bet that Italian series b team 1 v team 2 will not win 3-2.  It currently 1-0. I risk £300 to make back that money. The game finishes 3-2.

The feeling of needing a result desperately to go a particular way is heart wrenching. This is gambling, this is a problem. This is what can lead to compulsive gambling. The above example is one of many that I had done during this Period. Once I remember risking £700 to win back a £100 loss. I didn’t want the under dog team to win. It was 1-0 to the favourite at 65mins or so when I placed the bet. It then went 1-1. I went for a long walk in the cold with drizzly rain and every 5 minutes checked the score in my phone. Luckily it stayed 1-1 but this feeling was horrible. When I win back the loss,I would do no further actual gambling for many weeks or months until an error annoyed me that little bit too much that I chased. Chasing £5 turned into a £730 loss once and then onto my lowest moment of all. I risked £3000 to win back that £730 and I won. Pure luck of the draw. I dread to think what could have happened.. if I was chasing £5, then £730. What would I do to chase £3735. Due to being on the pursuit of FI, I had the money to risk after all…

You’ll be glad to know, I have never chased losses since the £3k bet. I feel incredibly lucky as I dread to think what could have happened if I did lose it. All my previous effort of matched betting would have been eliminated on top of losing the money, I would of felt like I had lost all the time and effort as well. How have I changed since? I don’t count any money as a given in any profit lines and it never feels like it’s my money already. I accept losses, mistakes and not earning what I thought I might. I feel like thankfully, that brief terror 2 years ago has been surpassed now. I am quite confident I have changed as around 3 months ago, I layed the wrong team with similar sounding names, lost £300 and just marked it down as an error. The thought of chasing never even occurred to me.

What’s next?

I am looking into no lay each way betting. The money I have put aside is not even included in my funds so it’s a punt really. I will look at it like an investment where it will have volatility but hopefully there is an upward trend like there is for others. I feel very comfortable with this as have already done something similar with 2up. The losing streaks never bothered me as long as I understood the variance would switch around and that it would likely work in the end. It is an exciting time, it’s a bit of an experiment. I have stopped normal matched betting because of the amount of time for me that it was taking. The idea of simply placing bets, no tracking other than totting up balances monthly really appeals to me. I will report back on how I get on :D..

For all intents and purposes, I have no regrets at all of getting into this and I have TheFireStarter to thank for helping me discover this. I feel I have gotten over the Ugly experiences as I no longer have any inclination to chase at all. I hope you don’t judge me to harshly on my failings as discussed, I just hoped sharing this might be of help to someone who was a bit like the old me.

Let me know how you have got on with your experience of matched betting in the comments!

Chris@TheFIJourney

What makes a Job good?

What makes a Job good?

I was working on an issue at work the other week when I noticed a new email pop up in the lower right-hand corner as I often do. I so happened to catch a glance of who it was from with the subject which stood out very clearly — ‘IT Restructure Consultation’ which was sent from the top dog in IT, my managers manager. As I was reading, there was a deadly silence in the office and I was consumed reading the content which discussed an upcoming restructure with an invitation to myself for a group consultation, I was one of those marked as at risk. Everyone in the office more or less at the same time shouted up “Did you just get that email about an IT restructure…?!”. Everyone in my team had got it and the speculation started en masse…

Fast forward to writing this post. I have since had that meeting and I will discuss what comes of it when its finalized which won’t be too long thankfully. Until then, I wanted to write a post on what makes a Job good? What, that in my experience of having had a very bad and a very good job has taught me personally.

The Bad Job

When I first got into the FI world as it were, I was working for a company that at first wasn’t too bad. I felt fortunate that I had got a job with the field I wanted relatively quickly and without too much hassle. I quickly however started to really dislike going to work to the point where the whole FI journey really did feel like tunneling out of a prison and moving to Mexico to show tourists around the coast. I think having a bad job really contributed to me considering a more bare bones FI and really saving as much as possible to the extent of slightly depriving myself of some things I have since loosened up on. What follows is the main reasons for disliking the job so much.

Awful Boss

This was without a doubt the worse part of the job. My boss was not a people person at all. He was so sharp and would shoot you down in an instant. The atmosphere in the room suffered as a result and no one felt like they could make suggestions or put forward ideas for fear of being bitten. He was largely responsible for the next 2 points as well.

Unmanageable work load

There was simply far too many things to be done in the day. The list of projects and tasks was too high and simply was not achievable. No matter how much work you did and whatever progress you made, there was always something you wasn’t doing which would be picked up by the boss and then criticized. This led to you never truly feeling comfortable and always expecting a telling off around the corner. You may have completed task 1 through 32, 39 and 40 but progress on task 33 would be soon be questioned.

Too Formal/Corporate (TPS Reports anyone?)

There was little banter in the office and talking for any length of time would often be looked down upon. I had experienced being timed with a stop watch when going for lunches, and we had to account for our time for every 10 minutes on a tracking system. There were discussions around whether we needed a tea making project code and that we all went to the toilet too frequently at times. There was very little banter within my team and the corporate feel was overpowering at times.

Pay/Benefits

The pay was ok for me at the time but not great for the profession and job role I had. What made it worse was that there were no benefits per se, auto enrollment for pension was set at the lowest amount allowed, and we only had no real perks. Holiday allowances was the minimum by law.

Some good stuff

Of course, it wasn’t all bad as with anything. I had some good banter with other teams and have made some long term friends as well as have gotten vast experience with my work and even using the bad negatives above as the main reason I now appreciate the good my current job provides which I will get too shortly. 

As you can probably gather, I really didn’t enjoy my old job. I had said many times as many often do, that I needed to look elsewhere and move onto something better etc and after one outburst from my manager too many (not even to me). I thought thats it…I really need to leave. So, I put together a plan to move on by the new year and to get a certification to help with my future job hunting. I remember being at the christmas meal out with my boss and team knowing that it would be my last one, it felt really good and I had no doubts at all that I wouldn’t follow through and leave the following month…. I handed in my notice 3 weeks later.

The Good Job

I left my old job just over 2 years ago. I honestly feel like in some ways I have been on holiday for the last 2 years when compared with the first. It proves the grass really can be greener (especially if your grass is mostly brown and dead :D)… All the reasons I left the old job were remedied in the new one:

• Awesome Manager (The complete opposite of my other manager, so approachable)

• Management workload (Challenging but achievable)

• Banter! (We have a good bunch of lads, and we get on well, we work hard but have a laugh in the process)

• Good Pay Many Benefits… (Pay rise, great pension, discounts, good sick pay etc.)

There have however been a few new aspects of the job which really were unappreciated until I had experienced them. These additional things make this job feel like to me at least what really make a good job good. It wasn’t until I experienced them at this place in the absence of such strong negatives that I knew how much I now value them.

Being valued

One thing that from almost the first week in my new job I noticed was that colleagues and managers actually appreciated my work and input. I was given praise frequently and that was something that I was not at all used to. My efforts here are noticed whereas in my old job, they weren’t. People value my input at project meetings and will take my concerns seriously whereas before, I felt like people would often ask your opinion but already knew the answer and path they were going down.

Interesting varied work

I work in IT and have to work on many different projects involving vastly different technologies. We have a lot of challenges and the work itself is positively varied. It is certainly not monotonous. There are always problems to solve and new solutions to design. This helps keep work fresh enough as to not get stale.

Feels purposeful in of itself

I work in the health care sector. The work I do impacts people when they are often at their lowest and in the most need of help. The systems I help build and maintain are designed to help people get better and to treat illness. This certainly helps motivate me more than in my previous job. It feels like something I would do on a volunteering bases or part-time. I think that’s what make me feel at times like I have already pulled the FI trigger and simply choosing to do this line of work for the joy of it in and of itself. That certainly feels good.

Never perfect…

Of course, just as the old job did have good parts, there are still some negatives in my new job. The commute is slightly longer, there are some office politics higher up, system documentation is poor and some staff are very lazy to the point of affecting what you do. I am certainly not wearing rose-tinted glasses.  The difference is that all the things that really matter to me are good enough to allow me to enjoy my job, give me no dread of going to work… and that’s such a big difference!

I appreciate that not everyone can work in an environment that’s similar to mine. I know a lot of the good could change simply with new management etc. I don’t think it’s a honeymoon period as I have been there over 2 years now but I know my feelings could of course change. But for now… I really do think I have a good job. 

As always, I’d love to hear how you feel about your work, and if you have ever been in a similar situation to my first. 

Chris @ TheFIJourney

Long time no post…

Hey everyone. Hope you are all doing ok :). It’s been quite a while since my last post on here which was made at a very difficult time for me. I didn’t really want to leave that as the last post and it certainly wasn’t the only reason I have been away for so long, I have just been consumed with life and other things (Excuses…). I took the summer off but then unlike Little Miss FI who came back to her blog after a similar break, I seemed to take the whole year off and then some hehe…I did want to post again but struggled with what to write about and didn’t want to write something just for the sake of it, it would probably bore you all if I did hehe.

Posting again

I do however hope to get back to posting the occasional article on my thoughts and ramblings on a few different topics including of course FI. I still feel reluctant to do posts sharing the specifics of what I spend and don’t spend, what I invest, where and exactly how much I have in Investments. A lot of other bloggers don’t seem to have a problem with sharing that and sometimes in amazing detail (Looking at you theFirestarter :D). Does anyone else feel uncomfortable sharing that? Maybe I will change my mind, I am not sure. At least that way there will be some regularity and as QuietlySaving said in a post on her blog, those seem to be some of her most popular posts. I do wonder if people love to compare there own efforts to others and see how they are getting on. it’s quite natural to do that and can be a great encouragement sometimes to envy others to help improve your own efforts but also can foster a bit of jealousy too no doubt.

The last several months

So what have I been doing? Am I still into FI or have I descended into mass consumption, money burning a hole in my pocket new type of philosophy desperate to spend every penny on things that don’t really bring to much enduring joy? Hehe. No I am afraid it’s stuck on auto pilot. I have met my targets every month, continued to invest as normal and haven’t really thought too much about it which is boring but great. I still treat myself without any guilt (Looking at you my shiny lovely new Samsung S10 Plus hehe).. well just to note my phone was 4 years old and buggered and I love technology so I HAD to get one. I have been immersed in Matched betting, keeping fit, learning and reading and going out with friends and family as much as I can. It hasn’t been a bad time really. I think I need to do less matched betting though, I may even retire from it. A post regarding this is certainly in the works, this is another post I question whether I should or shouldn’t write about.

Short and sweet

I will leave it there for nice, short and sweet. I just really felt yesterday like I had to either write something and start to be more regular or maybe close the site down. I chose to carry on for now :D. I will be writing a post soon about my job and potentially big changes that are coming to it. It might not even be there in a weeks time :/. I wanted to write about the things about it that make me really appreciate it so much compared to my previous job and how that made me feel so different about the whole work thing, and how much I might want to escape it. If I do lose it, those older thoughts might come back hehe.

Thanks for reading as always.

Chris@TheFIJourney

Reflections on a Family Loss

I thought twice at first about writing this post as I  figured people might think it was a bit morbid but then I thought to myself, no… this is all about facing reality head on and being honest and open. This is supposed to be a blog where I get to share my thoughts and opinions after all :).

The loss

For the past few months, a very close family member of mine has been battling with advanced cancer. Last night from 1 – 7am I was in a hospital side room with many family members waiting for the inevitable to happen. It did happen with all of us present at around 4am. She passed pain free surrounded by loved ones which was something we all wanted but of course at the same time was a horrific experience and many images of which I still can’t get out of my mind right now. This isn’t the first time I have been with a close family member when they died but is the first time since my pursuit of FI began.

Reflections

During these 6 hours together, we all were talking about many different things and at one point the subject of money and priorities in life came up. The general opinions and thoughts that appeared were that you should live life as if it were your last day and money doesn’t matter, it’s better to spend it now and be happy etc. This is in part what made me think about writing a brief post on this sentiment whilst being enveloped in the grief and trauma of it all. Has it changed any of my beliefs around the pursuit of FI?

I didn’t really disagree with the general sentiment of what they were trying to convey but did disagree with what they said if taken in a literal sense. I completely agreed that when such moments in life crop up that it can make certain goals and pursuits look trivial and can make you question things that you might be doing or worrying about in life. It certainly does make you reflective on such things. Should I live like today will be my last day, should I start spending all my money as who knows when I will die, it could be tomorrow, a week or 10 minutes. How can I think about an FI date 8 years in the future?

Live each day like it will be your last

The idea of living each day like it will be your last day I think is easy to dismiss. There’s no way I could do that as it would mean straight away that I wouldn’t go to work, I would want to be with my family all day. I would need to make arrangements etc.. it’s not feasible to think like this. I would say that the more realistic and perhaps what is really meant is – Live like each day could be your last. Now, I think there is some truth in this because I do try to enjoy the present moment and each day. I try not to live life on fast forward to the next weekend or month or next major event. Despite this though, I still live each day with the presumption that there will likely be a tomorrow and that there will likely be a next week, month and year. I don’t know this for certain but I live my life as if it were the case whilst trying to as best I can balance being present minded and enjoying each day for its own sake. 

Stop saving & spend all your money so you can be maximally happy

You shouldn’t save so much was said to me during this time. Now, I think this boils down to believing you are depriving yourself by not spending money which I have written about before. I think this certainly can be true if you are extreme in your approach but even then, deprivation is a very personal thing. Someone could get immense pleasure from not being materialistic, having minimal items and living a simple life. To someone else however this might be torture. So would I be happier spending over a grand a month instead of investing and running down my current stash? I don’t believe I would no as I don’t feel deprived and I get immense joy from having strong finances and FI as a possibility.

What if I had a terminal diagnosis – would I regret my FI pursuit?

I obviously don’t know how I would feel for sure but based on how I think I would feel. This would be a strong no. I would not feel that my life was deprived whilst pursuing FI so I don’t think I could feel regret. I would also have enough money to know I don’t need to worry about money or work as I wouldn’t need to work in this scenario as I already have a sufficient stash to last a decade or more. I would be able to focus my complete attention on my family and approaching the end. I could go on vacations with family and do things that I perhaps would have done less frequently before. In essence I know that being in the position I am already because of my FI pursuit, I would be able to remove some barriers and worries that I might have had if I had not pursued it. The whole experience would of course still be terrible and I don’t want to suggest otherwise.

Will I go down a gear after this?

If I was still at the early stages of my FI pursuit when I was more strict with myself and the slight feelings of depriving myself were present, I have no doubt this would have made me ease up a little bit faster perhaps than I did originally. Because I already have got to a sweet spot for now at least, I won’t be changing anything about how I approach FI. For me, what will change in the short term at least is how frustrated I get about the little things which of course seem so insignificant when you go through something like this. The pursuit of FI is still on…

As always, Let me know your thoughts on this article, I always value your input and opinions.

Chris – The FI Journey

Tracking Expenses to the Penny

The thought of tracking expenses to the penny always struck me as being way to strict and burdensome. I remember when I read the book ‘Your money or your life’ which talks about doing exactly that as part of its FI strategy that it wasn’t for me and even though I’d like to budget and know fairly accurately what I’m spending that it was a step to far.  I can’t really recall what specifically changed my mind or made me give it ago in May 2015 but since this date I must be honest, I haven’t looked back.

Pre FI Exposure

I have been budgeting probably since 2011 which was pretty much before I had a full time job. I tracked my incomings and regular bills but I never tracked my actual expenses when it come to what I called disposable income (money left after standard bills) or exactly what I spent on food or fuel. I simply recorded the direct debits so I could see if anything increased on a monthly basis. I would know that I roughly spend £100 on fuel for example and £120 for food and that with my regular direct debits/static bills that I would have £200 disposable income left or £50 a week to spend on daily activities/outings and spends through out the month which could include a book or a game etc.

As I knew I would have £50 a week on average, I would loosely spend accordingly. It was easy to know if I was spending more or less as I had no real savings so all I had to do was look in my wallet and at my bank balance and I’d know if I had overspent or not. During this time, I used my credit cards now and then for big purchases but always tried to pay back the balance over a couple of months. The largest balance I ever had was £2200 from the time I went window shopping at Comet and bought a £2000 TV :o.

To the Penny

As I mentioned in the intro, I decided to start tracking all my expenses down to the penny in May 2015 as part of trying everything I could to help move FI closer to being a reality. To be honest and even to my own surprise, I found this rather easy and not burdensome at all. I actually enjoyed doing it! I liked keeping my receipts and working out what category to put things into.

I still use my monthly budget which is simply an evolved version of my older budget spreadsheet that provides me a rough idea of how much I expect to spend in categories such as Food and Fuel which aren’t completely static but now on my expenses spreadsheet I record exactly what I spend for each which allow me to see if my budgets are realistic or not as an average cost per month.

Continue reading “Tracking Expenses to the Penny”

Gratitude for being on the Path to FI

I gave a fair bit of thought as to what to call this article. Some of the names that I thought of were “The privilege of being on the path to FI” and “The Good fortune of being on the path to FI”. I settled on Gratitude instead as for me this allows for appreciating the luck, good fortune and privilege of being on the FI journey whilst not making it seem like it was all random without any effort and awesome work from yourself included.

My Buddhist background

After graduating Uni I had a gap year, and during this year I got heavily into Buddhism after reading ‘The Art of Happiness’ by the Dalai Lama. Over the next couple years, I studied Buddhism very closely and read countless books on the subject, I even went to see the Dalai Lama in Manchester as well as going to a couple of weekend meditation retreats. I will no doubt do a future article on my experiences and thoughts on Buddhism but it’s worth clarifying that I was only ever interested in Modern Buddhism (no literal rebirth, Karma, nirvana) and that I don’t consider myself a Buddhist anymore. I mention this however as I am no doubt very influenced by much of what I learnt and am still very grateful for some useful ideas/practises I picked up during this time. This has no doubt informed the creation of this article.

So what do I mean when I talk about gratitude about being on the path toward FI. I simply mean acknowledging, appreciating and being grateful for the good fortune, privilege that you have for being on this path towards FI. There is no doubt that some people will feel that they are independent and are completely self made. They have put all the effort in, worked two jobs, learnt about how to achieve FI and have been disciplined throughout the process. Other people who are not pursuing FI could for sure be in the same position as me if only they tried harder, retooled, got that degree, worked day and night to start a new business etc… Now I believe that the above sentiment is indeed true up to a point and that you can be a relatively independent person but that this is in no way the absolute truth. There is so much more at play, so much that we have no control over.

Now all of what I state below is meant to be the generalities, it’s all about probabilities. A person born in a country without many freedoms or options to a poor family with an abusive relationship with parents still could end up on his path. But I would argue it is much less likely.

Time period & Country you are born into

I feel very fortunate to have been born in this time period that we currently live in as a well as a modern free country (relative yet again). We are performing so well on so many different quality of life metrics and things keep improving. This is not to deny problems and areas where there is decline but I feel so fortunate to not live in a world dominated by superstition, unequal rights, real poverty etc. Just having access to the Internet, a warm house with running water and a hot shower is bliss. We have so many luxuries available to us and countless activities you can partake in in the modern world many of which we of course naturally take for granted. Having this setup as a foundation for which to build FI on is the take home here, we live in a time period and country where FI is a possibility for probably more people than it ever has been at any time before.

Continue reading “Gratitude for being on the Path to FI”

Going on Holidays

I thought it would be nice to make a short post while chilling in the lobby of my hotel during the final day of my lads holiday outing to Amsterdam. It’s lovely just to sit back on a nice sofa with gentle music playing. Watching people and the world go by… it feels like it’s been hours already but that’s another side effect of being in the dam :D.

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Pre FI Aware Days 

Some of my most fondest memories come from going on family holidays when younger. The feeling of just being on holiday where most of your daily worries can just be parked or put on hold for a week or two. It’s interesting when your entire surroundings change for a period of time. I love that nothing NEEDS to be done but there are always things to be doing on holiday even when that includes specifically not doing anything at all. I used to look forward to my yearly big holiday which included Florida or New York at the time. I would spend a fairly large sum of money and take lots of spending money too. I usually paid for the holidays in full on CC and then would pay them off over several months. 

Since learning about FI

I for the past few years have gone to European destinations at least once a year. I always look for a good deal, go on a weekday etc. I certainly have not lost the joy of looking forward to and of being on a holiday but the days of multi thousand pound holiday are things of the past for now. I much prefer to go to 3 star if I can help it rather than a 4 or 5 although right now I am sitting in a 5 star lobby due to an irresistible deal… To try and be as efficient with money as possible though – I use a Revolut card so I can get the best travel currency exchange rate and withdraw from cash points without being charged (£200 limit a month). I get travel insurance for like £5 online and I don’t waste money on drinks/snacks that are charged at ridiculous prices. I find a supermarket and get better priced goods or simply take bottles of water out with me to help save.

I am certainly not a complete spendthrift though. I enjoy eating out, paying for experiences and activities out. I had a Chinese massage and speedboat ride earlier.. I did the speedboat ride first hehe. As of now, I still have only spent £250 over 5 full days though, so not bad. Money well spent for me. Maybe what makes these holidays even easier for me to justify is that they are still coming out of my matched bettings winnings and the next 4 or 5 holidays are already covered :D.

Local trips & Staycation

I have recently been going to more places in the UK itself and have recently gone on many day trips to Liverpool and Manchester etc. I definitely don’t need to go abroad just to have a good time. I have had many staycations during he last few years also. It’s interesting how sometimes I get a strange reaction from people at work when I tell them I am not actually going anywhere on holiday but simply am having a staycation. I even had a two week staycation a year or so ago where I wanted a 2 week kind of trial of being FI to see how I would find it – it went well albeit two weeks simply being used mostly to relax from having worked for so long.

So do you all still go on holidays? Have you reigned it in completely or do you still have a guilty pleasure of a traditional holiday that can’t budge?

Chris – The FI Journey