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 of 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 bills 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) and stands at around £7k and this 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 many much. 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

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

First post – Meet me!

Who am I?

Hey there! My name is Chris. Firstly as always thanks for taking the time to view my blog, it’s great to have you here. Welcome to my first real blog post, or technically the second one if you count my short introduction to the website :). 

This first blog post has been 4 years or more in the making in some ways. I have often times been tempted to make a website about Financial Independence and life in general but never quite found the time or extra motivation to do so. I was also held back by conflicting thoughts about whether I should or shouldn’t which I will talk about in a future post.

So who am I? As mentioned earlier, my name is Chris. I’m in my early 30s and work in IT as an engineer. I am an ordinary guy and in many ways I don’t differ in what I do to many of my friends and colleagues at work and in personal life. I like a few drinks now and then, play far cry, wolfenstein on my PS4, watch the walking dead and enjoy the odd trip to Amsterdam (no not to do that, before you think…).

In other ways however, I am living a separate kind of life and journey that only a couple of my close friends know about. I choose to keep it this way as from my own personal experience talking about never having to work again or having large sums of money as a result just feels like you are bragging or often makes people relate to you differently in a negative way. This of course doesn’t extend to everyone but I would rather keep it to myself and only discuss the generalities with others if they are curious. This is one of the major reasons why I wanted to create this site as it allows me to connect with others on a similar path in a more anonymous way. So… this journey is of course as most of you already know is the journey towards and through Financial Independence.

Pre FI Enlightenment

It really interests me that I remember pre FI knowledge how I looked at the future. I never even considered it a possibility to really retire early at 50 which to me was the definition of early. I thought it would take a lottery win or some huge luck to even accomplish that. I was focussed on living more in the present with retirement in the far foggy future. I thought investing was just really gambling and too complex and out of reach for me, you could literally lose all your money and it was a no go area for sure. 

Fast forward to Age 27

I came into a little bit of money during this year through bad circumstances, it wasn’t life changing money at all but was a fair amount to consider what to do with it and at the time was more than I had ever had sight of. I wanted to invest this somehow to best grow the money for the future. I began researching what investments were wise and what the likes of Martin Lewis at Moneysavingexpert thought. I eventually discovered passive index investing at the website Monevator. This website introduced me to the new world of Financial Independence. I went on to read Mr Money Moustache , Early Retirement Extreme, theFIREstarter and many other sites discussing FI. I was infatuated, besotted by it all one could say. I couldn’t get enough of it – I was addicted to checking my spreadsheets, working out my FIRE date, going through simulations, and reading more and more content on the general topic of FI.

Over the next few years, I fine tuned my budget, cut expenses where I could, increased my savings rate, created a Cash is King fund, Emergency fund and tracked my money to the penny, yes the penny! I originally had a FIRE date 23 years in the future, this changed with extra money, New bare bones FIRE goals, and more fine tuning to 18 years, 15, 12 and finally ended up at 8 years. I wanted to pull the trigger on full FIRE. I really disliked my job, hated my boss and couldn’t wait to escape the rat race.

Fast forward to now

I have since those early days continued to be fully committed to FI as a broad goal, I have however changed in some key ways in my approach and what I consider to be the end game. My trouble was for myself this is, was I was far too strict in the early days and I really was aiming for bare bones FI and treated FI as the end goal in its entirety rather than more of an enabler and something that gives you more options in the future.

I have since moved jobs and now I really enjoy what I do, I have an awesome boss and no longer hate work. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the weekends or live to work but I no longer feel like FIRE is the definite end target. I think FIRO (Financial Independence Retirement Optional) is more of a fit for me or switching to part time work maybe. I have loosened up on a target solid date for FI although I still check compound interest calculators and have a rough idea in years when I should reach some semblance of Base FI. This is currently 5 years away. 

I have also stopped for the most part feeling guilty spending money on things I value and enjoy. I love saving money on goods, I love bargains and buying in bulk things that I use and eat still but if I want a certain brand name food I love, I won’t hesitate picking it up whereas before I think I was more aware of the price. I like to think I am more balanced now in my approach and in turn I feel more comfortable, my quest for FI has almost become an auto pilot function in many respects.

This website & closing remarks

Well that’s enough about me, if you have read all of this I applaud you that’s for sure. I really hope with this website I can join in with the community and in turn perhaps write a few posts that people find interesting. At the very least, I hope it allows me to keep on the straight and narrow path by sharing my thoughts and feeling along the way.

Thanks

Chris @ The FI Journey