Project 2235 September 2020 Update – A New Normal

Hey everyone, hope you are all doing well in this altered world we are currently living in… And please, continue to keep safe!

I thought it was about time I did a Project 2235 update as it’s a couple months over due for sure :D. I plan to fill you in on what I have been up to over the last few months and of course provide a financial update to see if I am still on track to complete the 3 year 2235 plan.

Operation 2235

So just to remind everyone, back in November last year 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

Financial Update – Sep 2020

The below figures are taken from 20th September.

  • Monthly investment (April – Aug) – £1500 each month 
  • Savings rate (April – Aug)– 55% each month
  • Investment portfolio – £182.360.08
  • Cash is king fund – £10,000
  • Emergency fund – £1004.29
  • Big expenses / holiday fund – £2795.15

Total Liquid Funds = £196.159.52

When it comes to my financial review of the last few months. I must say I have been very pleased with how things have gone with my spending and also with the market in general. I still have doubts about the market staying as high as it is but I can’t pretend I can predict it so I won’t even try to. I will simply continue to invest every month and won’t even contemplate market timing for a split second. As with my previous update, I have managed to continue to save money on fuel with mostly working from home and also on household bills as I am now mostly living at my partners. On the flip side, I have spent more than ever on going out and gifts which has balanced this out so I am still spending to my budget very closely. This has meant that I have continued to successfully hit my target of investing £1500 every month whilst most importantly – not depriving myself.

My big expenses fund has taken a slight hammering in the last few months due mostly to a few days trips, a £300 Liverpool weekend outing (expenses included) and recently from pre-ordering the PlayStation 5 which I had to get day one…All of this of course in my humble opinion is money well spent 🙂 and is guilt free. I am finding that the amount of discretionary spending I give myself per month coupled with my big expenses fund being available, is allowing me to continue to meet my targets whilst still enjoying the here and now (no deprivation). This is so important to me but until we return to a more normal situation without Covid-19, I won’t know if this is sustainable for the next couple of years and if I will need to invest slightly less if I find I need to spend more.

Some Normality Returns…

At the time of writing this, there are talks of more national lockdown restrictions coming into affect in the UK, there may be the banning of households visiting other households, curfews at 10pm in restaurants and pubs, the closing of hospitality venues and who knows what else. For this update though, I will be talking mostly about my life during the past few months and I can definitely summarise my activities during this time as returning to some normality, a new normal so to speak. I will now go into some of what I have been getting up to.

Restaurants and Pubs…

Oh boy, it really is the simple things in life. I have really missed being able to go out with my partner or friends to restaurants and pubs. After the restrictions started to loosen on July 4th. I found myself slowly getting back to normality on weekends by being able to go down my local for a few drinks on a Friday. I was also able to go back to Wetherspoons for some nice cheap grub with a few cheap pints thrown in for good measure.

It really is a guilty pleasure of mine to go out on a Friday and or some Saturdays for a few drinks and some food. I have quickly got used to the new normal of sanitising your hands on entry and leaving, track and trace form filling in, consciously trying not to get to close to people, dividers between tables and keeping left whilst walking around. To be fair, I felt fairly safe in most places I have been, and usually people have been abiding by the rules where I have visited. I do take this Covid-19 very seriously and I like to side with getting back to a new normal whilst always being mindful that we are going through a pandemic, this must never be forgotten.

Continue reading “Project 2235 September 2020 Update – A New Normal”

Criticisms of the FIRE movement

I personally always find it worthwhile hearing opposite points of view and like to be challenged so I can more often than not come to a more nuanced accurate view of things. I have therefore spent the past few days researching the many criticisms of the FIRE movement that different people have put across in various articles across the Internet.

I wanted to pick some of the common themes that come up and then paraphrase parts of those views followed by sharing what I personally think of them. I have found a kernel of truth in these particular criticisms and I have chosen these precisely for that reason.  I’d love to then hear what you also think in the comments as always.

1 -It requires deprivation 

I would say by far the most common negative theme is that in setting out on a journey towards FIRE, you will be deprived in different ways. There is essentially going to be deprivation of happiness in the here and now.

Living life on fast forward, waiting for the FIRE date 

You work a job you really dislike. The thing that keeps you going is this future in which things will be so much better. You will no longer need to work for the man. You will be free, free to live your life to the full. Checking your spreadsheet and using a FIRE calculator provides so much joy. You have a countdown clock and cannot wait for the time to come, 3 years, 7 years, 18 years.

The problem is though that Life is for living now, you need to stop sacrificing your life now and rushing towards a future utopia that will not be the perfect dream you imagine, life doesn’t work that way. Live your best life now! You could be dead tomorrow.

My own thoughts

I think the brunt of this argument is that you will not be living your life now to the full if you pursue FIRE as a goal. You will be in essence wanting to fast forward life to this point of trigger pulling and that will be at the expense of now as you will be more focussed on the future than the present.

I think there is some truth to this but that applies to almost any pursuit or goal and isn’t just about FIRE. It’s all about the balance of wanting to enjoy life now whilst still wanting to improve things and having things to look forward too. If we truly did live like it was or very likely could be our last day on planet Earth, we wouldn’t go to work and would probably spend the day quite down to be fair.

If we were always 100% content with what we had, there would be little progress in the world. It’s good to both want and work towards something new or different whilst still wanting and enjoying what you have already. It’s the great challenge of life. I have been very conscious of this over the last year or two and have really tried to pull back a lot of focus to how I can get more joy out of life right now.

I do therefore certainly agree that people can be obsessed with this imagined idyllic future after FIRE which could then distract from the here and now a little but having joy looking forward to FIRE and reminding yourself of why you are doing this can also bring joy to the here and now. It’s worth remembering after all that moving closer towards FIRE and even simply having it as an option can bring so many benefits to the here and now, especially the closer you get. Becoming debt free, having some emergency cash buffer, lower expenses, having a few months of money in reserve to a few years really does help the here and now after all.

Extreme Frugality and life restrictions

Penny pinching is a must…

Enjoy drinking that coffee with friends? Enjoy the intense physical workout at your local gym? what about taking your other half for a few drinks and a meal at the local pub? All of this will likely need to stop to help achieve that 50 to 70% savings rate. You shouldn’t own any nice cars or expensive objects. You will need to live on beans and rice, buy only second hand clothes, better yet if you can make your own clothing then that would be good. If you enjoy regular holidays abroad then all of this will have to stop too.

You will need to penny pinch and downscale in almost every area to make this dream a reality. You will likely feel guilt at every opportunity or thought of spending money, this is no way to live!

My own thoughts

This is probably the most common attack on the FIRE movement I have seen. You will be depriving yourself right now by not enjoying life to the full. This is because you are withholding all the cash you invest from providing you a whole multitude of things right here and now. This might include such things as holidays abroad all the way to that new kitchen or Mazda MX5.

I completely get this argument and have even wrote a separate blog post on the subject itself. From my own experience, I think I was in the early days slightly depriving myself and have since loosened up a little and do not feel so guilty when spending money on things I completely value and get joy out of. The key point here for me though is the value of that new kitchen or holiday abroad is so personal and subjective.

There can be many cheaper ways to have fun and enjoy life but I wouldn’t want to say person x is absolutely wrong because he enjoys driving a nice car for example. It would be better to look at what you spend money on and find out if it really does make you happy.

I do not feel like I am depriving myself for example by not wearing jewellery or designer clothes or by not staying in 5 star hotels abroad but I would if I couldn’t buy a PlayStation 5 on launch or a new iPad when mine starts to die because I get so much value out of those things. I enjoy eating out at restaurants occasionally and having takeaways whereas other people might get no real joy from those things and prefer to stay in and cook a family meal and play 2nd hand board games. The key for me is are you feeling deprived, are you feeling like you want to go out more with friends but don’t because you’re worried about spending a few extra quid, if you don’t then I wouldn’t worry about this criticism but it’s certainly got validity.

There is of course the fact that there will no doubt be a balance of judging the future benefits of FIRE and then as a result choosing to have less holidays or days out etc or less experiences and purchases in general but I feel comfortable with this as I feel I already sit at a table with a huge banquet in front of me of things to do and enjoy as it stands and adding an extra variety of food to the table will not bother me all that much if I still can’t finish what’s on the table to start with. As with the previous criticism it is also worth remembering the benefits in the here and now that pursuing FIRE brings, it can make how you relate to work completely change in there here and now.

You can feel so much more secure by having even small amounts of FU money, and it can get rid of so many of those money related worries that the majority of people can and do indeed have. It is not simply about benefits being delayed and only seen in the future.  

2 – Early retirement is not so good

Another common theme of criticism is whether or not early retirement itself is really a good thing in the first place. You will be bored, you will lose a sense of self and identity. You won’t be able to relate to your friends in the same way as you could before. The early retirement life choice is just not really a wise choice in general, not for society at large or for you yourself.

What will you do? It won’t be as you imagine

Hope you enjoy playing Bingo…
Continue reading “Criticisms of the FIRE movement”

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