Saturday, 28 March 2015

To FIRE Fast we must know what we really Value

I think we've had enough about what I eat for breakfast and what I want to be when I grow up for now.  Let’s get back to what this blog is all about – an unrelenting focus on Saving Hard and Investing Wisely to enable Early Retirement in my case.  Your end game could of course be different.

I work hard for the money that I earn.  Given how much effort I've put into acquiring it the least I can then do is now put a bit of effort into retaining as much of it as possible.  Why?  Well, now that I have some money in my pocket I'm up against millions of people and corporations trying to extract as much of that money from me as possible.  It’s nothing personal but just the way it is.  Importantly, it’s also not just the big purchases.  I’ve found that sweating the small stuff is possibly more important because leakages here often have very little impact on your health and wellbeing.

So why at this stage do I want the minimum extracted from me while still living the life I want to live?  For me it’s not emotional and is simply by learning how to spend less I can save more which is then an enabler to help me FIRE faster (Financial Independence Retire Early).  Seven and a half years into my journey I'm at the point where this is probably the most important lesson I have learnt thus far.  Sure earning more helps but that just helps accelerate you to the goal posts and minimising investment expenses/taxes also helps but I’ve found savings have had a bigger impact on my wealth creation so far as the short time I have given myself to accrue the assets to FIRE don’t get much time to compound.  Spend less and two things occur which is why it is a critical element – it both moves you more quickly towards the goal posts but also moves the goal posts towards you.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Am I Making a Mistake?

Security of employment is not what it was once.  Changes including globalisation, technology, automation and lean (lean is basically doing more with less through the elimination of waste), amongst others, have sent it well on its way.  We see lack of security of employment manifest itself in many ways with one of the more recent ones making headlines in the mainstream media being zero hours contracts.

The problem with this change is that without security of employment there is always the risk of starving to death (maybe an extreme example given the UK’s welfare state status, but certainly not in some countries and hopefully you get my drift).  According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs inability to correct for this deficiency need (or d-need) then prevents one from ever reaching Self-Actualisation which is essentially the realisation of your full potential.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Click to enlarge, Source:

Personally, in my current career I’m also under no illusion of having any sort of security of employment.  I know that my current security is linked to nothing more than my last performance review or (not and) nobody anywhere else in the world being able to offer the equivalent service for a lower cost.  Part of this is within my control, but mistakes do happen, and part of this is outside my control.

With time I’ve come to realise that my solution to this problem in the short term has been to keep my skills current (the 1% inspiration) and then work hard (the 99% inspiration).  So far this is working with a recent notification that I’ll be receiving a salary increase of 4% and a bonus that exceeds my notional amount in recognition of my performance last year.  I never thought too much of this work hard approach, including was it too extreme, but when readers last week made comments like;

“I appreciate this is the path you've chosen, and for well thought out reasons, but your hours of work sound awful“;


“Holy s**t - good job you have an escape plan as that is a brutal life you currently have carved out for yourself - 16 hour days!  You must be tough as nails!”;

it really did make me take a step back and think.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

My Non-Financial Life

This blog is focused on charting my progress to Financial Independence and optional Early Retirement.  By having to continually to write about it I am forced to stay the course because I’m continually held accountable.  You the reader get to see my journey, warts and all, which also includes most of the financial research I do behind the scenes.  It stays very unemotional and fact based as that’s what personal finance in my opinion should be.

Behind all this though is a living breathing human being and also my family who are personally affected daily by what I publish here.  I rarely write about this side for a few reasons:

All of that said it is of course relevant for anyone considering, but not currently on, a similar journey to my own.  Some 7 and a bit years on it’s now just the life my family and I live but thinking back our personal lives have changed a lot.  This was reinforced this weekwith a reader making the following comment:

“Have you previously posted on what you get up to in your daily life? I have a lot of respect for what you're achieving and would enjoy hearing how you enjoy daily living while being frugal. When last did you go on holiday? What do you do for entertainment? Etc. Does that make sense? Just trying to get a feel for the types of adjustments I'd have to make.”

So without further ado let me give some insights into how I live my personal life.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

18 Months to Go?

6 Months ago, almost to the day, I made the bold statement that I had 2 Years to Go before Financial Independence beckoned and optional Early Retirement was staring me in the face.  If I'm on plan for that then today I need to be writing that I have 18 Months to Go.  So do I?  As always let’s run the numbers.

Saving Hard

One of the key pillars of my overall Retirement Investing Today strategy is to find ways to earn as much as possible while finding ways to spend as little as possible by living healthily and intentionally well below my means.  The difference between the two is savings that can be invested to start working for me.  So how have I done on this front given that to be successful I need to maintain a savings rate of 55% of gross earnings, which I define as Savings plus Employer Pension Contribution divided by Gross Earnings (ie before HMRC takes their portion) plus Employer Pension Contribution?  Against that 55% target I've actually averaged a savings rate of 53.9% over the last 6 months.

Note that here I don’t include any investment returns, EBay sales, savings account interest, credit card cashback or 5p coins picked up on the roadside as earnings.  I do however make it hard on myself by counting the tax from both my salary and investments/interest as spending which encourages me to structure my finances as tax efficiently as possible.

On a chart my savings look like this:

Average Savings Rate
Click to enlarge

So I've failed to meet this objective but I'm actually still happy with the result.  Why, because you’ll see the savings dip occurred just before and just after the end of 2014 during which time as a family we conducted some Early Retirement research by spending some time in one of our preferred Early Retirement locations – Puglia, Italy.  We went in the depths of winter as we know that part of the world is beautiful in summer as a tourist but we’re talking about living there permanently and so wanted to see it in its worst light.  The conclusion?  As a tourist location it’s still a pretty impressive part of the world:

Trullo in Alberobello, Puglia
Click to enlarge, Trullo in Alberobello, Puglia