I am really excited to let you know that I have had the honour of writing a post for Latestarterfire in her series about people who find the FI/RE movement late in life. It tells you about how I discovered financial independence and started on this journey, along with the progress that I have made so far and what I hope to achieve. You can read it here. Don’t forget to check out the rest of her site as well.
It has been over a year since I discovered the financial independence/retire early movement. I have listened to so many podcasts and read hundreds of blog posts in that time. It has helped me to become familiar with many of the principles of FI/RE and for those of you new to this concept I want to introduce you to the basic tenets. This is also an opportunity for me to look back at what I have learnt over the past year and how far I have come in my FI/RE journey.
The four percent rule
Financial independence is achieved when you have saved 25x your annual spending. For example, if you could live on £10,000 a year you only need £250,000 saved. If you prefer a less frugal ‘retirement’, say on £30,000 a year, then you will need £750,000. This is based on the premise that when you stop working for money you will be able to withdraw 4% of your savings every year to live on. Despite the regular withdrawals, at a rate of only 4%, if invested wisely, your nest egg should last until you die.
Although financial independence is amazing, I arrived late to the party, so my chances of being able to save 25x my spending are about zero. Nevertheless, the principles of FI/RE have enabled me to begin to spend my money more thoughtfully and helped me learn what is important in my life.
Small savings can add up
This is the easy part and something that everyone can do. Unless you’re completely new to the FI/RE movement, then you will already be familiar with the usual list of things to cut out of your life e.g. cable/satellite television, gym membership, daily lattes/lunches expensive mobile phones, bottled water.
I have stopped buying so many coffees and lunches, but also cancelled some magazine subscriptions. I have also not bought any clothes in a year, having realised that I have plenty to keep me going for a while yet.
The three big wins are making savings on housing, transportation and food
These are the three areas where we all spend the majority of our money. Over the past year I have mostly been tackling our food budget. We used to do our weekly shop in Waitrose, which is one of the most expensive supermarkets in the UK. I have to admit that the quality of some of their food is better than what I now get in Tesco, but currently the savings are worth it.
As well as changing where we shop I have also devoted time to meal planning and now do that once a month, along with ordering a monthly food delivery. This is one of the areas where I realised that time is more precious than money. At the beginning of 2019 I was going to two separate supermarkets each week to maximize our savings, but after a long day at work I was exhausted and found this a challenge. I was also disappointed in the quality of the fruit and veg from Lidl and we ended up wasting food as it just went straight into the compost.
Now I choose to shop only at Tesco, which is via our delivery and then weekly top ups, mainly of perishables. The delivery also means that I am not lugging heavy bags of shopping in and out of the car e.g. beer, tins, bottles of cleaning products. I feel that I have completely taken the stress out of shopping. The delivery does come with a charge of approximately £1.50, but for me it is so worth it.
Housing is a much more difficult area as prior to discovering financial independence we spent £435,000 on a house, albeit the mortgage was only £130,000. It now stands at £73,810.70.
I don’t want to sell the house and so the only other option is to maximise our asset. This could be through AirBnB or renting out a room. The first would be my preference, but I have realise that this may be difficult when we are hosting trainee guide dogs. We love having the dogs and wouldn’t want to give this up, but I’m not sure how the organisation would feel about this. Theoretically the strangers staying in your house could steal the dog, who is worth a lot of money due to all the training hours that has been put into him/her. This eventuality seems unlikely, but it would make me anxious. I am not sure how we are going to address this and probably need to have a chat with someone from the agency.
We are then left with the option of renting out a room on a long-term basis. At the moment I am not sure about that. Mr Simple has talked about trying to find full-time employment, which may mean staying away from home Monday to Friday. If that does happen I may consider having lodger, ideally one who is just here through the week and returns home at the weekend.
Ideally a financially independent life is a car-free one, but if you live in a rural area as I do this is not realistic. As I’ve mentioned before I get an allowance from my employer towards the upkeep of my car as it is essential for my job. If you do need a car, then buying second hand is the way to go, which my car was when I bought it. At nine years old it is getting on a bit and costing me more money in upkeep, but it is less than buying a new car, so I am trying to keep it going.
One possibility for us is having one car. Mr Simple wasn’t enthusiastic when I mentioned this recently, but as he is home most of the time and his car sits on the drive way, I do question whether it is really necessary. He says that he needs it when he goes away to work as travelling on public transport would limit where he is able to stay overnight. I think that it’s something we need to consider. I may look at how feasible it is for me to arrange my appointments on the days that he is usually here and to be at home when he is away so that he could take my car.
If you can, increase your income through side hustles
There is only so much you can do to reduce your spending unless you want to live like a monk and eat rice and beans every day. Those aggressively pursuing financial independence look to earn extra money in their spare time. You could get a second job, do surveys on line or start a blog. There are lots of ideas here on the Humble Penny website. So far I haven’t made any progress in this area.
Put all your savings in index funds with Vanguard
All that money you save from cutting back and earn from side hustles needs to be put straight into an index fund with Vanguard. The company set up by John Bogle in 1975 seems to be the favourite of the financial independence movement, as a result of its low fees. There’s no picking individual stocks, just own a part of the total stock market, invest regularly and wait. It will go up and down, but over time will gradually increase in value until you’ve got that nest egg from which you can draw your 4%.
My money’s in a Target Retirement Fund. This is part stocks, part bonds the balance of which changes as you get nearer to the year that you have selected for your retirement. Vanguard does it all for you, so the fee it slightly higher than their other funds, but it’s still very reasonable compared to an actively managed fund.
So there we are folks, the basics of the financial independence/retire early movement and my progress so far. How’s your journey going? I would love to know. Are you just starting out or are you already retired?
Thought Experiments are a bi-monthly event set by Saving Ninja. Anyone can take part and you will see the others who have contributed listed at the end of this post.
Here’s the question for this month:
A different opinion is somewhat frowned upon in our clique-based society, but some of the greatest minds of all time were outliers. They weren’t scared to go against the grain and stand up for what they believed in. So, for this Thought Experiment, I’d like you to reveal yourself: What opinion do you have that most of your peers do not share?
When I was a teenager and in my early twenties I followed the crowd in respect of alcohol consumption – out on a Saturday night and spent Sunday recovering, sometimes with my head down the toilet.
But that was a phase, a period of my life that I was passing through. The trouble is that most of the people I know have been stuck in this phase for the past thirty years. The ‘group think’ is that in order to enjoy yourself you have to get very drunk when you go out, spend the next day on the sofa telling your kids that ‘mummy isn’t well’ and then laughing and joking about all the stupid things you did when you were drunk with your friends/colleagues, etc. on Monday morning.
Sorry, I know that I sound like a grumpy old woman, but I just cannot see the attraction anymore. It’s a waste of money and a waste of a day if you have to spend 24 hours recovering. I think my colleagues are used to me bowing out of social events if they are going to involve a lot of alcohol and have no expectation that I will attend. At our annual Christmas party I will have a couple of glasses of wine and that’s it. And I’m happy with that. But people think that you can’t be having a good time if you aren’t drinking. I would say, if you need to have a drink to enjoy something, then you probably aren’t having fun.
My theory is that people struggle to challenge peer pressure to conform to the unwritten rules of society. If you want to achieve financial independence (FI) and perhaps retire early (RE) you’ve got to learn not to follow the crowd. You’ve got to be prepared to say no, be different and be proud of it. If you’re constantly worried about keeping up with the Joneses and doing things you don’t want to do for fear of upsetting others, then you’ve got a few lessons to learn before you are going to be equipped to face those challenges that you will most definitely meet along the way.
That’s what being part of the FI/RE community can help with. Reading all those blogs can give you ideas e.g. check out Radical Fire who publishes lots of great posts every week and realise that you’re not doing this on your own. There are others out there treading the same difficult path, challenging the norm and saying no to choices which don’t fit with their goals.
I would urge you to think about each of the choices that you make in life. Are you doing this because others expect it of you or is it because you truly enjoy it? Does it get you closer to where you want to be? This takes strength and faith in what you are doing, but it is achievable.
So next time your friends suggest a night out, how about thinking twice before accepting the invitation? Perhaps think of a cheaper alternative – a movie night at home, a dinner party where everyone brings one course or a picnic with food for sharing. You and your friends might just enjoy themselves more and won’t have the spend the next day recovering. You’ll also have saved a few pounds as well.
Please have a look at them all and tell them what you think:
It feels as though as summer approaches I am attending more social events. I don’t have a big group of friends and as you would expect from the title of this blog lead a fairly simple life. The village in which we live has an active social committee and so there are a programme of events throughout the year which I try to take part in.
I have also met up with ex-colleagues. We keep in touch every couple of months and as you can see from how much I spent, go to a fairly cheap eatery for some food and a chat. Friends came to visit and we cooked lunch instead of going out.
I also attended a local fund-raising event to raise money for twinning activities. The nearest town is twinned with a place in France and this has waned over the years as the members of the society have got older. Now they are trying to revive it and are looking for new blood. With my love of France it was an ideal activity for me to get involved in. At the moment it will just be attending events to publicise the revival of the twinning, but eventually there will be the opportunity to host visitors from France and join a trip to the French town to stay with a local family and see the sights.
So, let’s look at the figures…
Another good month on progress with the mortgage. The standard monthly payment was £571.00 and then we made an overpayment on the mortgage of £540.06. The standard amounts came out of our joint account for bills, one of which was our gas and electric bill with Octopus who we switched to last year. They were recommended by Money Saving Expert and Which and I have found them really good. All of their electricity is 100% green and you can carbon offset your gas. If you were thinking of changing then click here to check them out and if you sign up both of us get £50.
This leaves the balance on the mortgage standing at £79,207.36
House value is £476,283 (according to the Nationwide House Price Calculator) which is an increase of 9.49% since we bought it.
Savings stand at £33,514.34. My Vanguard stocks and shares ISA has been up and down this month and by 31st May I had made a loss of £54.85. Saved £185.00 to Vanguard and £250.00 to Nationwide.
Interest on Marcus account which I am using for stoozing a grand total of £4.35.
Food £133.29 which included a quarterly order of dried fruit and nuts. I felt as though I had some expensive weeks this month in terms of food, but the cupboards are looking a bit bare as we had let them run down so I had to stock up. I was trying to make an effort to use up those strange ingredients that you’ve had for years and that are lurking in the back of the cupboard. This month it was a packet of sundried tomatoes which I think we bought in Italy over six years ago. I soaked them in some boiling water and used them in a lasagne recipe.
Petrol £115.35– slightly under budget as I took the train a few times. That gets refunded so I don’t count it in my expenses.
Pilates – £32.00 – this is quite a lot, but I really find it beneficial and don’t want to skimp on something which is good for my health.
Miscellaneous £68.54 which included £30.00 in presents, spending on the garden of £9.45 and seeing gardens £10.00. Meal out with friends £9.40 – a bargain. Just ordered a wrap and fries and drank tap water.
Expenses from bills account – expected annual expenses
Holiday balance £94.75. We are about to go to the Yorkshire dales for the week. Unfortunately the weather forecast isn’t good, but we are renting a lovely cottage so will have plenty of room to hang up our waterproofs after a day on the hills.
Travel insurance £23.06 for a holiday to Italy. I usually get annual insurance as we have a couple of holidays abroad, but this year I didn’t bother as Mr Simple and I are staying in the UK this year. My mother and I are celebrating my 50th year by going to the Italian lakes in September. My insurance is unusually high due to my heart condition which I have to declare. Mr Simple, who is fortunately fit and well, can get annual insurance through his bank for £30 per year.
Physio sessions – £64.00. These are to help with problems in my neck and shoulders, mainly caused by poor posture and too much time on my computer. When I have a week’s leave my shoulders feel fine, but as soon as I go back to work they feel tight again. The physio has given me exercises to do to strengthen the muscles in my shoulders, but I am not always a good student and forget to do them. I recently realised that my annual budget for physiotherapy of £1152.00, is the equivalent of our yearly holiday in France. This year we aren’t going there, but I worked out that if I make more of an effort to do my exercises and don’t have to go to physio anymore, then we can go to France without any increase in the budget. This is a good example of how daily habits can help you to achieve your goals and dreams i.e. daily habit = physio exercises; goal = save £1152.00; dream = holiday in France in 2020.
Received some interest of £28.70 from a savings account which I emptied some time ago.
Had £65.55 left over and paid this into my Vanguard ISA.
So any observations or suggestions? How was your May?
We had some friends for lunch yesterday. They were passing through on their way to a week’s holiday with family and stopped by to say hello. Their suggestion was to go out for lunch, but I kept to our current frugal principles and offered to make lunch at home. We have a lovely house and a fairly nice, albeit very much ‘in progress’, garden. A much better place to eat than a dark pub on a bright spring day, and much cheaper.
During lunch Mr Simple surprised me. When I talk about FI/RE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) I don’t always think that he is listening, but yesterday he mentioned it to our friends and asked me to explain it to them. We talked about our staycation in March and how we had found pleasure in being at home. We also talked about changes that we have made to save money. One of them being that since we have become more frugal we are cooking much less fish (I am pescatarian and Mr Simple is a meat eater), so our meals are mainly vegetarian.
Our friends, who live in London, invited us down to stay and we talked about the great variety of restaurants there are in the capital, as compared to where we live. As well as economising on our home cooked food, we don’t go out to eat very often and that is when Mr Simple gets to eat meat. One would expect that he has been missing it, as now he only gets ham or chicken sandwiches, but never meat for a main meal. Some months, we don’t go out to eat at all, therefore his meat consumption at dinner is zero. Surprisingly, Mr Simple shared than going out less often means that he enjoys it more when we do. He said that it feels like a treat.
So how do you define a treat? According to my little Oxford dictionary it is something that gives great pleasure. So, what makes it a ‘great’ pleasure? Back to the dictionary and one possible definition of ‘great’ is ‘more than ordinary’.
And that’s it isn’t it? It’s not something that you have every day. It is something that is out of the ordinary or extraordinary – unusual or remarkable; out of the usual course of everyday life. When you have your treat every day, or at least several times a week, that event doesn’t stand out anymore and therefore it’s not something to look forward to with anticipation.
Pleasures have become the mundane, the every day.
Having things less often means that you take more pleasure in them. In this day and age, we have forgotten what a treat is, as we treat ourselves every day.
In some ways I feel sorry for those who treat themselves every day. Their pleasures have lost their sparkle, their thrill. Maybe they have to spend more and more money to get that same feeling that I get when I buy a latte from a coffee shop once a month.
So, what treats do you have in your life? Or are there things that used to be treats, but aren’t anymore? How about giving them up for a bit and then just letting yourself have them occasionally? Try it for a little while and see how you feel when you do finally get that treat. You might just enjoy it all the more.