Life during lockdown

Hey everyone. I really hope that you are all keeping safe and as sane as possible during all of this shared experience that is affecting us all. It really is such a unique situation indeed.

We are all just about to start the 9th week of full lockdown and the final bank holiday until Christmas is upon us. I thought I would give a quick update by sharing some of my experiences of lockdown both positive and negative.

Home life & Personal

I moved in with my partner the night Boris announced the full lockdown that would commence the day after on March 23rd. I knew that we would probably be in lockdown for a few months at least and really didn’t want to be apart for so long as I took the rules seriously and wouldn’t of broke them. I rang her straight after his address and asked.. ‘I can’t not see you for weeks and weeks….could I maybe…perhaps… move in?’. This has been a big change for us both on top of the lockdown changes themselves but we have no regrets at all, it’s made all this much more bearable for sure for us both. We have got on really well and haven’t killed each other yet, so it’s all good😅.

I have been doing things that I should have done long ago without doubt. I have been kindly taught by my partner who is an awesome cook how to bake a cake… and to properly cook food from the initial peeling and chopping vegetables to making curry sauce from a powder and adding some extra spices etc. The closest I had ever got to real cooking was literally putting pizzas and food in the oven or microwave and not much else – I do an awesome beans on toast I can tell you…

Further below is the cake I made and my Chinese vegetable sweet potato curry (sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peas, red onions, quorn chicken pieces). The bit when you add the vegetables and food into the curry sauce and mix It all together is so satisfying, I can finally understand why cooking can be so fun and rewarding! 

Vegetable Sweet potato Chinese curry

Pink fully iced cake (Vanilla flavoured butter cream with strawberry jam)

Personal development 

Have I got completely bored at home? Have I become a zen meditation master and finally done all those things on my To Do list with all of this free time and almost no excuses? Well I would say it has been a mix really. I wrote out a few pages a couple weeks into the lockdown of how I wanted to turn this into something positive. I wanted to come out of it having achieved and accomplished some things at least but knowing full well I couldn’t expect to just come out a different person. This is what I come up with at the time;

  • Lose weight, get back to my ideal best weight (9 pound loss needed)
  • Stay fit (do some form of home work outs and stretches most days & go for daily walks)
  • Declutter my digital world (I have several external hard drives full of stuff and my phone/tablet and laptop to sort through)
  • Read some books and watch some video learning (expand the mind a little)

So how did I do so far? Well I got off to a bumpy start on the Weight loss front. For the first 4 weeks of lockdown I had a different takeaway each Friday (Indian, Chinese, pizza and chip shop food). I also drank beer on Friday and Saturdays at home which didn’t help too much. I have however stopped the takeaways now and only drink on the Fridays. I can happily report I have now lost 6.5 pounds which I am very pleased with. I need to make sure I now don’t undo the hard work and carry on to lose a few more pounds. I feel so much better for having lost the weight. 

Onto the fitness front. Well this has been less successful. I have gone for walks every couple or few days and have done occasional work out routines but not as much as I would have liked. I need to try a little harder at this for sure! I seem to do splurges when it comes to fitness and I always have. I can do it for a few days but then I just start to stop. I can eat healthy for months and months on the other hand.

When it comes to the declutter digital world challenge of mine. I have made big progress on this. I have managed to ensure I have backups of all my key documents pictures and videos etc and have also put some of this into the cloud as well. I have also removed loads of unused applications from my phone and iPad and sorted out the shortcuts only to those things I actually use and value. I still have more to do though as I need to go through more of my external drives to delete the content that I really don’t need any more. It’s similar to physical clutter in some ways, I find it hard to delete some stuff as I feel I might want to look back on them one day or get conflicted and go down memory lane when looking at older things.

My Work

I am really enjoying my work still and during lockdown being able to work from home a few days of the week and then going into work once or twice on a rota has really helped break it up a bit. I must admit, I wouldn’t like to work from home permanently. I miss the closer social interaction, the work banter and just the ease of walking over to someone and asking a question. I also find that I sit down far more when at home as I don’t need to get up to run upstairs to speak to someone or to go into the difference offices on my same floor, I really do miss this aspect of work as it keeps me active.

In terms of how busy my work is, well we initially were very busy in preparing our infrastructure for the changes in home working for our users and also many of the top priorities were switched over night. We had to rush in certain projects to help with our COVID19 response for example as those new functions actually directly helped with our ability to triage patients safely within the hospital. I feel very relieved now for our frontline staff more so that due to us being able to cope with the demand and footfall into A&E at the hospital that we have now returned to pretty much mostly BAU for my role.

It will be interesting to see how long we have to work from home for. I can do 99% of my work from home and it doesn’t need to be me specifically that does the other 1% where I do need to be in the office, it can be any of us really. I imagine that we will be carrying on working like this on a rota for many months to come, it might even last the rest of the year.

The FI Pursuit

FI Pursuit Hardened

One of the things I touched upon on my last post was how I was really pleased with how I handled the biggest financial loss of my portfolio so far. I had lost around £27,000 at one point and yet I remained fairly calm other than an initial stomach twist so to speak. This was the acid test, this showed I can handle losses. I didn’t sell, I had no intention of selling. In fact I wanted and looked forward to investing even more than normal every month as I really did feel like I was able to buy more chickens with their prices being lower now. I knew those extra eggs produced would be more valuable one day…

I feel I have graduated now from FI university and I am here to stay for the long haul. I think there could be another drop from all of this and I am still surprised how optimistic the markets seem to be. Either way though whether there is another even bigger drop or if it steadily rises back to pre crash levels. I feel confident in my ability to weather future FI storms as a result.

FI Pursuit Safety Net

The other thing I have really appreciated during all of this experience thus far is how lucky I am to be in the FI Pursuit game at all. The safety net of owning my own home mortgage free, having low expenses and having liquid cash and a mighty portfolio however diminished still puts me in a great position compared to so many. The gratitude muscles are ripped as a result. When disaster strikes, it really does put you in such a better position to weather the storms and get through financial obstacles. I don’t really fear losing my job as I know I would be fine and eventually would get another one. I can’t exactly feel sorry for myself because I will add a couple more years to when I become FI. I feel very privileged to be in this game at all.

Financial Update – May 2020

So…It would be rude of me not to provide a financial update for those longing for such content 😃…

  • Monthly investment – £1500 
  • Savings rate – 55%
  • Investment portfolio – £167,172
  • Cash is king fund – £10,000
  • Emergency fund – £1020.70
  • Big expenses / holiday fund – £3831.11

I hope you have enjoyed my post. Please share your experiences of lockdown in the comments. I would love to hear them. Most importantly keep safe.

Chris @ TheFIJourney

Project 2235 April 2020 Update – Coronavirus Pandemic

I truly hope all of you are keeping as safe as you can and that you are weathering the storm of this pandemic and lockdown as well as you can. This first update post certainly will have different content to what I was expecting that’s for sure. There is a large contrast between December to February that I now know as the living life as normal months where as March has been a very different kind of month for sure. We will of course get through this, life will eventually return back to what we recognise as normal I am sure, it just might take a while.

So just to remind everyone, back in November I put forward a plan called Operation 2235. In summary, the plan entailed the following:

  • Reach a portfolio of £250,000 (Base FI) by December 2022 whilst I was still 35 years old (hence the name Operation 2235)
  • Achieved by investing £1500 a month over 3 years (£54,000 total) – With an assumed fair sail wind of 5% (2% real interest minus inflation)
  • Do the above without depriving myself whilst still being able to weather some expected unexpected outgoings

December to February Update (living life as normal)

The Plan

Ever since writing my original post about this plan, it has given me a real strong sense of purpose and direction even though I had a similar not so concrete plan in mind for a long time, writing it down online and sharing with you all somehow made it more meaningful I guess. It really does boil down to the same regular theme that has ran through many of my posts here which is:

Move towards FI without depriving the here and now in ways that matter and without having life on fast forward until you reach it, make sure to enjoy this part of The FI Journey just as much

Money & Investing

I invested £1500 every month as planned which always makes me feel good when I do it. Ever since getting my recent promotion, this figure has really been a sweet spot as I think any further promotions and/or money increases will go to other activities and purchases and not to my investing. 

When it comes to monthly expenditures – December was a fairly expensive month with it being the Christmas period and a multiple birthday month.  I spent a fair amount of money on going out and buying gifts with Christmas costing me around £600. I pulled some money out of my Big Expenses fund as I always do for December due to it usually being my most expensive month of the year. I ended up £6 from my budget for December which I added to my Expected Unexpected outgoings fund.

January turned out to be a much more expensive month than is usual for a typical January for me as I usually tighten the purse strings so to speak. I went to London for a long weekend trip and also went out to Birmingham a couple times for nights out. I also had food out a good few times more than normal. I ended up being £50 down from a budget perspective which meant I had to record a January deficit charge from my Big expenses fund (oh the humanity…)

The expenditure upward trend continued in February. I had to pay for a few annual renewals that I still haven’t included on my regular yearly bills monthly outgoing such as Amazon Prime, PlayStation Plus. I spent a lot of money on gifts for people in February as well which pushed my monthly deficit to £118 which I again took from my Big expenses fund. This was however something that I had intended this fund to be used for over the 3 years of this plan so this was not a worry.

Life

I had a really good end to last year in December. The month seemed full of activities and there was a nice relatively quiet rundown at work towards Christmas without too much pressure. I always like December as work always tends to be quite project wise and I get into a reflective mode in general and what with multiple birthdays, German market trips, many festive drinks and the like – there’s a lot to enjoy and look forward to.

January turned out to be very similar to December in activity terms, I started the month off with a lovely multi day trip to London which despite coronavirus being known of, it didn’t feel like it was going to be anywhere near as big as it has since become to me at least so that was enjoyed to the full without any fear – a few pub crawls around London with my partner was fun indeed.. This was followed with a very productive couple of weeks at work where the previous quiet December was soon left behind with huge projects and very tight deadlines coming out of the no where. Despite being very busy at work, it felt very rewarding as what we was helping to deliver would really help patients at our hospital and the quality of care they would receive.

February was much quieter that the previous two months. Work was steady and going out was less frequent although we did go to a couple of live bands in town which was cool. A couple of take aways and beers at home on a Friday was the most exciting things I got up to really. I started to follow the events of the coronavirus much more closely mid month and I think I wasn’t going out so much as a result. I must admit I bought forward my bulk buying of beans, peas, cashew nuts etc that I do every couple months just in case before any restrictions were put in place. I am very glad I did this for the beans as I have a can a day…:D

March Update (During Coronavirus lockdown & Crash)


Money & Investing – The global financial crash – £27,000 Loss :O

Well, I knew that at some point I would experience a market decline that would wipe out tens of thousands of my portfolio. I prepared for that psychologically in part by not having all my eggs in one basket – By choosing to invest 40% in bonds along with some large cash buffers and owning my own home which would I hoped, make the loss not feel as big should it were to occur. By having enough cash to last over a year, I hoped I would not need to sell during a big decline if I were to lose my job at a similar time which would make me feel like I hadn’t truly lost the money invested in a sense. None of this however can be tested until such a decline would occur. How would I react?

At first I didn’t really react much to the declines I read about on the BBC news. I never checked my portfolio and I carried on as normal. I was more concerned about the virus and the impact it was having. It was only after several days of declines that my curiosity took the better of me and I logged in. I was £27,000 down. I experienced a small twinge in my stomach for sure but I was fine really.  My thoughts about the situation from a market perspective was, this year might end up written off for sure but things would return to normal. The markets will rise again and all will be well. I was more concerned about the human impact this was having on families and how we were all being affected pretty much at the same time.

I must admit that I was impressed with how I handled the loss. It would be interesting to know how much of that was because it seemed to be affecting us all with this being linked to the pandemic and also that I wasn’t chasing a solid set date for FI as much anymore. Nevertheless, it was a good test of my nerve. I made no sells and invested as normal the £1500 for March at the end of February. I also took advantage of the decline and sold part of the fund that was not in my ISA wrapper and put this back into my ISA to fill up the £20,000 allowance slightly earlier than I originally planned to.

My expenses for March was fairly high. I ended up £35 down which I took from my big expenses fund as usual for any monthly deficits. Most of this expenditure come from having a few more take aways than normal and also buying a fair bit of food and gifts for some relatives to help out.

Gratitude

Since losing the £27,000 this has now gone to around £18,000 at the time of writing but even when this was at its worse I still felt grateful for being on the path to FI and had no regrets about my pursuit of it. This has led to the following benefits which help in this situation which gives me immense gratitude:

  • I have a years supply of money to pay for all my bills if had no income
  • I own my own home so at least I know my home is all paid for regardless
  • My expenses are very low, I don’t need a huge amount of money each month to get by for essentials

Life – Unprecedented times

It’s been a very interesting March that’s for sure. This lockdown really has changed the shape of my activities as it has for most. I enjoy going out for a drink and dance on the weekend. This has been annoying to lose but the fact is it’s the simple joys and freedoms that I have missed. Just being able to pop in to see my dad, friends and other relatives to have a cuppa. Being able to go for a random drive, give my gran a hug etc.

I have been able to work from home for the past couple of weeks with having to go into the office 1 day per week on a rota which I am actually grateful for. It’s been interesting to experience working from home on the regular as it’s let me find out if I would like to in general when doing the same job I do now. I must say that there are benefits and negatives like with most things. I enjoy being able to stay up later at night as don’t need to get up so early, no commute etc and can wear jeans. I really do miss the human interaction though and speed of asking things in person. It really does make life easier and gets you up and about. It’s shown me that for me there is indeed a social element to working I miss when at home remote working. We have lots of banter in my office which I know not everyone gets to experience.

As always, thanks for reading my post. I’d like to know how you all have dealt with the situation we find us all in and especially how the large losses have affected you as for most of us, this will be the first huge decline we have experienced.

Chris – TheFIJourney 

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

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

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.

————————————————

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

Escaping the Rat Race

There are many people who are pursuing FI almost solely it seems to escape the so called ‘Rat Race’. I am sure we can all relate to this in some way ourselves as work isn’t usually a place we go to beaming with energy and excitement looking forward to another day. Fridays don’t tend to be the most depressing day with Mondays being the best due to us having a whole week of wonderful bliss fueled work ahead! I have read so many FI forum posts over the years of people dreaming of never having to work for their awful boss anymore, no more long traffic filled commutes, no more office politics, no more writing TPS Reports! The list of things at work which we despise can be long indeed and being able to escape these things can be a huge motivator in striding towards FI.

You apparently didn’t put one of the new coversheets on your TPS reports – Office Space Movie quote

Despite work not being perfect and still providing frustrations at times, I  have definitely changed my views over the last few years as I have been in both a really bad job and now find myself in a really good job. This post will discuss my ever evolving thoughts on Escaping the Rat Race.

Work before FI

Its interesting trying to remember exactly how I viewed work before I started on this path to FI. I had only been working for 4 years from the age of 23 as I finished Uni at 22 and then had a gap year. I got into the FI world as it were at 27 so I hadn’t been working for very long without having FI as an ultimate future possibility. I do recall not feeling like rushing into work which is exactly why having 3 months off after graduating from Uni turned into 6 months and then finally into 1 year. I remember thinking that I will be working for the rest of my life so why rush, I have earnt a break after working hard (I was never one to leave assignment of the FYP (Final Year Project) till the last week or few days before hand in :D…. oh no wait, that was me!).

I think at this time my priorities were more on things that were happening at that moment. I certainly didn’t think about retiring early or that I might be able to do so. I was just like everyone else it seemed who used a credit card for certain stuff, my monthly money came to an end before the month itself usually so the last week was usually tight. I really needed that money to go in on pay day and it was a relief. I did feel under more pressure at work because of this bigger reliance on needing the cash and being hit negatively so quickly if I didn’t have it. Work was just something we all HAD to do for money we DESPERATELY needed.

Work in the early FI Days – The Bad Job

A big driver of my initial interest in FI was to escape the rat race. I loved to read articles and stories of people who needed to no longer work for an income. Work really was something I disliked. I had an awful boss who was very nasty, there was a really bad work atmosphere because of him. We had unmanageable work loads where it felt like you was setup for failure because in doing something, there would always be something you wasn’t doing that would be highlighted. The thought of being able to escape this situation was just awesome. The idea of FU money seemed to appeal more when having an awful boss.

Continue reading “Escaping the Rat Race”