Thursday 8 August 2013

Now I’m Being Asked to Encourage My Own Rent Increases

I have little tolerance of the Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) process which is nothing short of a scurge in this great country of ours.  Having now just completed my annual AST dance which goes something like:

  1. An email is received from the “Property Manager” of the Local Lettings Agent.  “Dear RIT.  Your current AST is due to expire.  Therefore if you want to stay in your current rental accommodation it’s time to renew.  The Landlord is looking to increase the rent by (insert a large random number based on no facts here).  Additionally we will be looking to extort a renewal fee of (insert a smaller random number again based on no facts here).”  I know they are also taking at least 12% of every month’s rent from my Landlord as they are so incompetent that they have occasionally sent me the Landlords monthly Statement so I’m assuming they’re also extorting renewal fees from that direction as well.
  2. I then do some research and find out what rentals of a similar type as mine are going for in my area.
  3. I send an email in reply which goes something like.  “Dear Property Manager.  Having now conducted local market rental price research for similar properties and in recognition of our long standing respect for the property which keeps the Landlords costs down (which I know all your tenants can’t claim) plus an untarnished record of continued on time payment of rent (which I also know all your tenants can’t claim) I believe a fair rent is (insert current monthly rental amount here) or (insert current monthly rental amount minus a few £'s here)."
  4. This then results in some “healthy” negotiation until eventually they play the eviction threat card which goes something like “I want you out by (insert a date 2 months in the future here) and will be sending you a Section21 notice immediately.”
  5. At this point I know I am close to the lowest rental amount possible.  This has in the past resulted in rent decreases, increases or freezes.  Unfortunately this year it was a 2.1% increase.

It was with much amusement that I today received a badly torn envelope in the post which had another local Lettings Agents name poking out and was addressed to:
     Private & Confidential: Please Forward
     The Legal Owner(s)
     RIT’s Flat Number
     RIT’s Street Number

Sunday 4 August 2013

Retire to Europe – Option 1 - Malta

As a British Citizen I am in the enviable position of having the right (at least for now) to take up residency in any 1 of 26 other EU countries.  Countries as far north as Finland, as east as Cyprus, as west as Portugal and as south as Malta.  A melting pot of languages, cultures and history which when combined provides for a myriad of potential lifestyle options and life experiences.

Prior to retirement these options can be limited as you’ll likely be making decisions based on where you can get work and your language skills but once you reach financial independence these become less of a barrier as you:

  • won’t need to consider how to make a living through work;
  • many potential side hustles/jobs can still be performed in your native tongue/s; and
  • you’ll have time on your hands to learn the local language.

Of course as Ermine’s comment rightly pointed out in the Transition to Retirement post your human setting, which include access to family and friends, will also likely be a limiting factor on packing up and moving to a new country for many.  Personally I'm in the fortunate (or unfortunate depending on how you look at it) position of having few ties to the South East of England but instead have family and friends spread far and wide throughout the world.  This includes a healthy number of good friends and family on the Continent.  This means that a move to Continental Europe actually brings some family and friends closer while I leave some good friends in the South East.

My current plan has me moving out of London and the South East of England to either another UK location (Shropshire or Suffolk being current favourites) or to Europe.  A large driver of this is the price of housing and other basic costs in the South East.  By moving away I will be presented with the opportunity for a more fulfilling life as I’ll have the opportunity to move further up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid shown in the figure below.  In brief Maslow detailed that every person has the desire and ability to move up the pyramid but they cannot move onto the next level of the pyramid until they have met the needs on the lower level.  By moving away I won’t have to expend as much of my retirement wealth (nor worry about it as it won’t represent such a large a portion of my total assets) on the lower Physiological Basic Needs which includes Shelter and providing a pick a Safe retirement location I’ll be able to concentrate on moving through Belonging, Self-Esteem and hopefully achieve Self-Actualisation.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Click to enlarge (Source:

Sunday 28 July 2013

A Transition to Retirement

I am currently at the point where if I can maintain my current savings rate and forecast average investment return run rate I expect to have accrued sufficient wealth for full financial independence in a little less than 3 years.  This will mean I will have the option of either:

  • continuing to work in my current full time career knowing that I don’t need the company but that the company needs me; or
  • taking early retirement from my current day job which will allow opportunity for everything from doing nothing to side hustles to part time work (whether in my current or a new career) to a new full time career which might include my own business;

all at the relatively early age of 44.

With only a few years to run until Financial Independence I now believe I'm at the point where I need to start thinking about how to transition from my current position to retirement.  Before I document my first musings on what the strategy might look like to financially transition to early retirement let me first detail some relevant considerations that need to be accounted for based on where I am today:

  • I am planning to be in the position where I will need to generate no active income with all expenses being covered by investment return from my accrued wealth.  Planning this way means any work undertaken, which might earn an income, becomes an activity that brings enjoyment or learning opportunities only. 
  • I am a higher rate, 40%, tax payer and expect to be a basic rate, 20%, tax payer in retirement.  This along with the facts that as part of a pension salary sacrifice arrangement my employer adds to my pension a large part of the 13.8% Employers National Insurance Contribution that they now save, plus I also get the 2% Employees National Insurance contribution above the Upper Earnings Limit added to the Pension, means I have a lot to gain by making large pension contributions.  At current rates my pension contribution is about 50% of my monthly 60% of gross earnings savings rate.  This means that over the next 3 years, after accounting for expenses, taxes and investment types in and out of the pension, I expect my Pension wealth to move from 41% of total net worth today to something closer to 44%.  I am therefore left with only 56% of my total net worth to live off until age 55 when I can start to Drawdown on my Defined Contribution Pension.  Of course that assumes the UK government doesn't change the retirement age or other pension rules meaning I'm also carrying a bit of contingency in my planning.
  • I haven’t yet bought a home and while I will have the assets to sell to buy the home outright a small mortgage looks prudent to maximise my wealth retention by paying some short term interest payments which will allow long term minimisation of taxes.  Some of these tax minimisations will include not cashing in any of my Stocks and Shares ISA wealth as I want that tax free income forever, avoiding payment of any capital gains tax and not selling some offshore Non-Reporting Funds where the gains are subjected to income tax rather than capital gains tax, which I foolishly bought before I knew what I was doing, while I'm a higher rate tax payer.  This will reduce any Capital Gains Tax from 28% to 18% after allowing for my Annual Exempt Amount (£10,900 for 2013/14) and the tax on the gains of my Non-Reporting Funds from 40% to 20% or possibly even a portion at 0% if I'm careful.

Sunday 14 July 2013

A Retirement Investing Today Review 6 Months into 2013

This is the regular quarterly feature that demonstrates the progress a person actively living the tools and techniques mentioned on this site can make towards early financial independence.  It also forces me to hold true to those tools and techniques because if I can’t live by them then this site becomes hypocritical like so many other sites out there and I become nothing more than a hypocrite like so many others with vested interests.    

My own personal situation follows everything I talk about on this site to the letter.  The site is all about Save Hard, Invest Wisely, Retire Early so as with the 2012 Review let’s continue to use those 6 words as a theme.


I am now into a fifth year of aiming to save 60% of my earnings, which I define as my gross (ie before tax) earnings plus any employee pension contributions.  This remains a very tough target in the current age where we have increased taxes and prices due to unrelenting inflation.  I feel fortunate to have been given some respite here earlier in the year with a 3.5% salary increase after receiving nothing in the previous year.

To maintain my Save Hard focus I continue to looking for ways to both Earn More as well as Spend Less which certainly requires frugal living and little to no consumerism.  This continues to be a very positive experience however when you live in a city, London, where it appears as though everyone thinks the world is going to end tomorrow it can become difficult to stay on the path I have chosen.

By tracking my net worth on a weekly basis, which also gives me a % towards early retirement figure, plus before making any purchase taking some time out to ask myself if I really need what I am about to purchase which includes considering will it help improve my health or increase happiness I typically don’t stray for very long.  Particularly as I carry the knowledge that by deferring that spend I get one step closer to early retirement which will mean a big reduction in stress plus the option to only work when I want and then only because I enjoy it.

Last quarter I managed a savings rate of 67% of earnings however I also advised that a large portion of that was caused by a HMRC error.  They are now in the process of recovering the “interest free loan” they provided me with which has caused a fall back in savings rate to 64% for the first half of 2013.  These savings have gone into both my own investments plus a portion has been provided to my better half to help keep her financial independence goal on track and in sync with my own.  The payback to HMRC still has some way to run so I’ll need to stay focused if I’m going to keep that savings rate above 60% in 2013.

So where did the money go:

  • 22% was invested into Pension Wrappers
  • 36% was invested into ISA’s and non tax efficient locations 
  • 6% was used by my better half

Saving hard half quarter end score: Pass but I need to stay focused with the current increased tax pressure on my shoulders.

Sunday 7 July 2013

Is it More Important to Earn More or Spend Less

If we are ever to build wealth for financial independence then we must first get to the point where we are spending less than we earn.  The remainder after spending are the savings which can then be invested wisely for early retirement (or whatever cause you are looking to build wealth for).  To maximise our savings (hence accrue the amount of wealth we require in the shortest possible time for a set investment risk) we should first take all the earning more and spending less opportunities available to us that take little to no extra time.  On the earning more side this could include asking for a salary increase if you employer is paying you less than the market rate and on the savings side it could be living in a home that is well below what you can afford, not grabbing that Starbucks on the way to work, having the lowest price grocery bill or even taking on a cheaper mobile phone plan even if it means you don’t get the latest smart phone to name but four.

Once you've done that you’re now at the point where to increase your savings rate you need to start expending more time and energy.  On the earnings side this could be working paid overtime, working free overtime if you think it will give opportunity for higher earnings later, looking for a new job that will better recognise your current skills and hence pay you more, undertaking training which will arm you with more skills to enable you to earn more or even developing a side hustle job to bring in a little extra cash.  On the spending reduction side it might include learning how to and then making your own cleaning products, growing some of your own fruit & vegetables or even mending your own clothes.

To achieve a savings rate of 60% of gross earnings I know that personally I have taken all the earn more and spend less no extra time opportunities that I can think of plus I am expending huge amounts of time and energy on earning more.  I am also devoting some extra time to spending less but this area is certainly not maximised as both my living conditions (a small London based rented flat) plus earning more efforts filling the week restrict this somewhat.  The question is does this philosophy generate maximum savings or should more time be spent on spending less?  This site is all about fact based analysis and so let’s run some simple numbers to find out.