Showing posts with label debt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label debt. Show all posts

Thursday 14 November 2013

What Would I Do if I Fell On Hard Times (and Importantly How Would I Recover)

It’s been a surreal week.  Midway through it I received a phone call from a good friend who has just returned from the third family holiday of the year.  However this time instead of talk of how great the holiday was I was greeted with an “I'm in financial difficulty and could I borrow some money from you?”  A little clarification revealed we weren't talking about twenty quid until next payday but thousands of pounds.  I was dumbstruck.  Why?

My friend is intelligent, has a very similar educational background to my own and has been working a similar amount of time.  We have similar jobs, albeit at different companies, but I would guess our salaries are probably within 10% of each others.  We do however live very different lifestyles.  To give some examples:
  • In my friend’s family only 1 of them works.  In my family 2 of us choose to work.  
  • My friend’s family chooses to live in a lovely part of London in a very nice rented house.  I live with my family in a small rented flat in a less salubrious part of town which is actually perfectly adequate for or needs.
  • That lovely house above is not well insulated and so already has the heating on where I'm still yet to even consider it.
  • My friend’s family choose to holiday at least 3 times per year.  My family has a single holiday each year along with a family visit for Christmas.
  • My friend’s family is always dressed like they've just walked off a catwalk.  My family while wearing clean, neatly pressed clothes are a little out of fashion and contain the odd darned sock.

I must be clear here.  I don’t begrudge my friend’s family any of the above.  Everyone in this world is entitled to live their own lives and make their own choices.  I've chosen to Save Hard, Invest Wisely and Retire Early which today means I have accrued 72% of the wealth I need to secure financial independence.  My friend’s family has chosen to live for today.  I’d never really thought about the differences between us previously but when you look at the differences above we are at very different stages in life and on a very different life path.  The now clear disparity in wealth really did bring the book The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley into the forefront of my mind.  The only difference is that I don’t have a million pounds nor do I think I will need that much for financial independence as I've found plenty of ways to live well while spending less.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

A Method to Help Us All Save More

The road to wealth creation, which leads to financial independence if persisted with, is no secret.  In fact P. T. Barnum in his 1880 publication, The Art of Money Getting (available for free in Kindle Edition at the link), which is still as relevant today as when it was first published, reveals it by the second paragraph.  “Those who really desire to attain an independence, have only to set their minds upon it, and adopt the proper means, as they do in regard to any other object which they wish to accomplish, and the thing is easily done.  But however easy it may be found to make money, I have no doubt many of my hearers will agree it is the most difficult thing in the world to keep it.  The road to wealth is, as Dr Franklin truly says, “as plain as the road to the mill.”  It consists simply in expending less than we earn; that seems to be a very simply problem.  Mr Micawber, one of those happy creations of the genial Dickens, puts the case in a strong light when he says that to have an annual income of twenty pounds per annum, and spend twenty ponds and sixpence, is to be the most miserable of men; whereas to have an income of only twenty pounds, and spend but nineteen pounds and sixpence is to be the happiest of mortals.”

If “those who really desire to attain an independence, have only to set their minds upon it” and spend less than we earn I ask how do we find ourselves in a world some 133 years later where every 5 minutes and 7 seconds someone is declared insolvent or bankrupt and the average household debt in the UK (excluding mortgages) is £6,020?  Why is it “the most difficult thing in the world to keep it”?  While we shouldn't trivialise this as there likely many reasons depending on who you are, which includes some people who through no fault of their own fall on hard times, I also can’t help think of two major reasons which likely prevent the road to wealth from being found for many.  The first is that in the modern day a lot of people refuse to take responsibility for their own actions but instead prefer to act like a victim.  The second is education.

If nobody shows you where that needle in the haystack is then probability says you won’t find it.  The problem is in modern society who has it in their interest to show you where the needle is?  Of course the individual does but if they never know they are looking for it then it’s down to luck to stumble across it.  Family and friends possibly do but it relies on them having found the needle for themselves.  Worse it is actually in the rest of the world’s interest for you not to find the needle.  All those advertisements you are bombarded with day and night whether direct or more subtly via the current lazy mainstream media certainly don’t want you to discover it.  They want you spending “twenty pounds and sixpence” and not “nineteen pounds and sixpence”.

Let’s therefore make this post a needle in the internet haystack and hope that some find it.  If you’re reading this then feel free to Like or Tweet it, as every one of those places another needle in the haystack that might be found.  Let’s detail the simple method that helps me save more.

Step 1: Prepare a Budget

A budget is no secret and I’m sure 99.9% of the population is already aware of what a budget is.  Just about every personal financial site and book talks about them.  While well known they unfortunately don’t give you any answers but they do give you information.  They won’t help you save more but are a necessary first step as they:

  • let you take a step back to see what the situation looks like;
  • tell you how quickly you need to act; and
  • tell where you should focus first.

If your budget shows you spending “twenty pounds and sixpence” then you clearly have an emergency on your hands.  Every second that passes is seeing you move further into debt which is then making it more difficult to ever get out of it.  Mr Money Mustache ‘eloquently’ advises that in this situation the correct response is to treat it like “there is a cloud of killer bees covering every square inch of my body and stinging me constantly!!!!  I need to stop it before I am killed!!!”  In this situation you need to get yourself to the point of only spending “nineteen pounds and sixpence” quickly.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Debt – Instant Gratification vs Long Term Wealth Creation

The Free Dictionary defines debt as an “obligation or liability to pay or render something to someone else”.  In the context of Personal Finance I have a different definition of debt which is that it is a “decision to consume now without the necessary wealth to pay for that consumption.  Should interest be charged on that consumption and opportunity cost considered then the consumption now will likely be smaller than would have been possible should the wealth have first been created.”

If this was the official definition of debt it would then be obvious to people that by using debt you are likely getting less now than you could have had later in exchange for taking instant gratification today.  This therefore affects your opportunity to create wealth.  I do not believe that the majority of people appreciate this when they go into debt to buy something.  My definition also tells you this is for 2 reasons:

1.    Interest charges.  Buy it now without the means to pay for it up front and the end result is that each loan repayment being made to repay the debt is going to include a principle portion, which will eventually cover the original purchase price, plus an interest charge.  If you instead chose to save what would have been the regular repayment amount until you have saved up enough to pay cash then two phenomenon occur:
  • You will save the amount needed for the purchase faster than the equivalent loan will be repaid because what would have been the interest portion is adding to your savings. 
  • If you saved until what would have been the last loan repayment day then you will end up with more cash than the original purchase price, again because of the interest portion.
2.    Opportunity Cost.  This is rarely if ever discussed when people discuss debt but it should be considered as its effect can be considerable.  If you don’t make the purchase or defer the purchase then the money you would have used to fund the debt repayment can be invested to generate a return for you elsewhere.

It’s important to note that these statements are based on the assumption that the purchase does not rise in price at a rate higher than the interest charge.  If this was the case then you would also have to include the opportunity cost (including considering the risk of that other opportunity) of deploying the debt repayment s elsewhere.  If after this calculation the price was still rising at a faster rate then the debt may actually help with wealth creation while also giving instant gratification.