Car-free and debt-free in 24hrs

Today I waved goodbye to my trusty 2014 BMW M135i. I am a bit of a petrol head and have enjoyed driving this car immensely. Its 3.0 litre, straight-6, twin-turbo engine meant you could hit 60mph in 4.9 seconds. It was also de-badged, meaning most people would assume it to be a basic 1-series at the traffic light and often were surprised when I drove off at such pace. I will miss this car SO much. Thinking back, I was so proud of it when I got it and loved terrifying any passenger foolish enough to join me for a drive.

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My baby BMW. A true ‘sleeper’ car.

Selling my car has been on my to-do list for a very long time as my ongoing ownership of the vehicle was the major elephant in the room for my FIRE journey. How can I possibly justify owning such a car on finance when trying to achieve FI?  I simply could not and that is why I have sold it.

I will admit to procrastinating on the sale because as often with cars, it is a heart over the head decision. Finally, I have come to my senses and sold it. Car ownership is in many ways a sign of status and success. Selling such a status symbol is almost a sign that you have failed. However, that is flawed thinking. We are so ready to buy cars on credit to have this ‘status’ and in the process make a huge commitment to pay something every month. It is almost like having debt is the status symbol in our society.

FIRE is about removing and changing that mindset. I now believe that NOT having a car that is costing me dearly and not having debt is a status symbol. I hope to be able to buy a decent car outright when I can afford it without finance. Then it truly will be something to show off.

How did I sell my car with finance outstanding?

I used the car buying service Motorway to sell it. As the car had finance on it, a private buyer was going to be a challenge as people are wary of making such a purchase with the finance outstanding.

The process was very easy. You visit their website and then upload some snaps of the car. They will find a buyer and give you a call. With Motorway, the dealer will happily give you a price and then pay off the finance directly to the finance company. The difference will be deposited in your account.

The only difficult part is the finance company is often slow to update their records, so it is advisable to go with a reputable buyer who is trustworthy and you know will have paid or are good to pay off the loan. The buyer I have is a large company so I have no worries (yet) that they have not paid it.

They send round a driver to your house to collect the vehicle and away it goes.

The price I was offered was about £800 more than webuyanycar.com and the process seemed easier as the car was collected from my home rather than me going to a location and having to get back on public transport.

I do accept that selling the car this way will obtain a lower figure than selling privately, but if you have finance on the vehicle, it is almost impossible to get a private buyer to go through with the transaction. I tried selling the car last year and had this exact problem. Would you buy a car with finance outstanding? Hell no.

Another way could be to take out a loan to pay off the finance and then sell privately and immediately repay that loan.  I think I could have sold the car for about £1500-2000 more by doing that. However, it added another risk and complexity to a process which I had already put off and made every excuse under the sun to avoid commencing selling the car. Besides, the whole point in selling the car was to get out of debt, and taking on another loan to do so seems counter-intuitive.

It is done and now I really am debt-free. Selling the car will add another £450/month to my budget once finance, tax, insurance, fuel and servicing are accounted for. I also got £2000 in my pocket which I will put in my ‘buffer’ account for now. 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer update

July has been and gone. I spent a lot of time feeling smug about paying off my debt and because I got a new job. I think July has been a time of me giving myself a break financially. I’ve allowed myself to spend a bit of cash on holiday and on doing things I want to do.

I went on holiday with my lovely girlfriend to Scotland where we did some hiking. I bought a decent mountain jacket and waterproof trousers which cost about £375. It kept me dry and I fully intend to do more mountaineering soon. I also decided it was a birthday present to myself 🙂  It’s a hobby I have let slip away with living in London and being, frankly, nowhere near mountains. The great thing about this is that it was not a financial strain, I bought it with the money I have earned and not on credit. Great feeling. Also, maybe once I’m FI I will still have this jacket and will be able to do this activity as often as I want.

The other big update is a new job. After the scare, I had with my current company back in April, I decided to seek out a new job. In fact, I was lucky enough to have been headhunted for a new role in a similar line of work. I got a £10k pay rise (probably more like £15K if you include the extra pension contributions and other benefits). There are also great career prospects and the opportunity to progress to partner in the company. I’m pretty pleased about it. All of this will accelerate my journey to FI.

Investing

I have also started looking into investing more seriously. I have seen that other FIRE blogs have an investment policy statement. I really have no clue where to start with on that front but will come up with one soon enough. I am also conscious that I want to build up my financial buffer. This seems rather dull in comparison to investments, but I need to do it to get the comfort I need. As with everything in the FIRE process, patience is required.

Credit Check

I decided to undertake a credit check out of morbid curiosity. Although I have no intention to borrow money again, I wanted to check I had paid off all my debts and had no skeletons in my closet.

I was both mortified and proud of myself when I saw the borrowing history. In case you didn’t believe how much I have paid off in the time scale, I wanted to put it here from the website Check My File .  The graph is a couple of months out of date, but the lines don’t lie. The only thing I have left is my car loan which I am planning to get rid of soon.

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My score is 880 which is good. Great if I need to apply for a mortgage again… as this is the only debt I am ever getting again.

The graph also gave me a reason to reflect on why I got in this situation. I did write a report about this in a previous blog post but I don’t think I touched on what appears to have been the true reason for my debt emergency. The data shows that my debt skyrocketed in Feb 2016. This was also when my father passed away. The two are inextricably linked. I recall that is also when I bought my car. However, I can barely recall what else I bought. That’s the sad thing about getting in debt, you often have nothing to show for it but are lumbered with the resulting ball and chain.

Matched betting

I also dabbled in a bit of matched betting using the intro offers at betting sites. I must admit it was terribly confusing, but I have somehow made £70 for only a couple hours work. I don’t know if I can be bothered doing any more as you have to stake a fair bit of money for it to work, but maybe I will return to it once my ‘buffer’ is in place.

So July has been a month of reflecting on my past as painful as that may be. However, the important thing is that it is my past and it shall remain so. I am committed to looking forward and to embrace the path to financial independence.

 

The day I paid off my debt

Today I made the final payment on my credit card. It felt scary to do it. I had all kinds of anxiety thinking things like “I’m going on holiday at the end of the month, do I have enough?” Well, the answer is yes, I do have enough. It’s a feeling I’m not used to having, but I have enough because I’ve sorted out my financial life.

 

There have been so many times in the past 6-7years where I’ve been struggling to get through the month, or worse just spending recklessly It’s deeply ingrained anxiety that I’ve lived with for years and now, finally, I have managed to break out.

 

Maybe the magnitude of what I have achieved has not sunk in yet, but I was expecting to feel different. People say it is like a weight being lifted. I agree it does feel that way. However, today the weight on my back was very light compared to the one in January of this year. I have been breaking chunks off every month since then and the weight of debt has been lightening. Today was the last piece and one I’ve been looking forward obliterating for a long long time.

 

Now I have done it and, yes it feels great. I must be 100% honest and state I am not debt free. I still have my car loan and at this point, I’m happy paying that out until it ends in Feb 2020 (I love the car too much) and the car is now worth more than the loan. But all the other debt is gone.

 

The road into debt

 

To mark the occasion, I would like to reflect on how I got myself into the mess I found myself in. As with any story or struggle, it is not one that happened suddenly, but gradually over time.

 

I took out loans for sensible things like education to pay for my law conversion course. I then borrowed a lot to take 10 months out of work to study for the Bar. All worthy endeavours, but expensive. Add to that a general issue with not saving enough because there was always pressure to spend to go to weddings, holidays, drinks and meals out with friends resulting in me struggling to save any money.  I’m glad to say that those days are in the past.

 

Additionally, I had to take out loans to fund a project in the building I live in which is a leasehold property. Of course, the project overran and increased in cost. That has been a struggle and a drain on my resources, however, it looks like I won’t have to pay anything for a while now thanks to a court ruling. That has cancelled £7000 of money that was demanded by my landlord but I refused to pay. I’m only kicking myself that I paid anything at all as I could have not paid at all and been about £10000 better off.

 

In 2016, I lost my father and grandmother within 2 months. That also led to a spiral of spending pointlessly – I bought, or rather entered a PCP agreement to get a BMW to cheer myself up. It did cheer me up and gave me great freedom as I had not previously owned a car for 6 years. Sometimes you have to live a little… but yes I could get a cheaper car.

 

After completing my studies last year, and I started earning again in September 2018, I began to think about the debt. I couldn’t see a way out. I got a tax refund and paid off the rest of my government student loan (£2400) before I started the new job so it wouldn’t come out of my salary.

 

I then came across an article on FIRE in the NY Times which really inspired me. I heard about all these people, some younger than me, who had retired. I couldn’t believe it. How would I ever get there?

 

I started in earnest and made some rookie mistakes. I wrongly started investing in the stock market around November 2018. This was a mistake I realised when reading Mr Moneymustache’s post about debt emergency. The debt should have been my priority. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/04/18/news-flash-your-debt-is-an-emergency/. I cannot agree more with his philosophy here and urge you to do the same.

 

His philosophy changed my mindset completely. This was a blazing emergency and I needed to change my life no matter what. Over the course of a month, I started to add up all the cards, loans and overdrafts I had. It was frightening. I was about £39,000 in debt (£15,000 car loans, £16,500 unsecured, £1500 overdraft). This was unsustainable. I was paying around £800/month on loan payments alone.

 

I used the tools at my disposal and paid off one of the loans with my savings, then paid off a loan with a 0% credit card offer to save around £500 of interest a year. I also made a stretch plan to pay that card off by June. I cut my expenses back by hundreds a month. https://playingwithfire.uk/2019/02/

 

Every time I got paid, I put the money into the credit card (£1500-1800 a month) so I couldn’t spend it and held on tight for the rest of the month. There were some dark days as I had only a few pounds left in my account at the month’s end. I stopped going out, eating out and skipped holidays. I cooked meals at home (turns out I love cooking). It was not the best fun I have to admit. I viewed it as a sacrifice to get me out of the hole I had dug myself over the years. When things got tough I looked toward the day I would be free and that kept me going. The first few months were the hardest as they were during winter. Lots of PS4 games were played and thank God for Red Dead Redemption 2. As things got easier I allowed myself the odd meal out and the odd pub visit.

You probably want to know about the numbers. Well, I get £4005 a month after tax in salary, another £500 in rent from renting my spare room out (tax-free), and £500 to cover expenses from my girlfriend (she lives with me in London).  My monthly expenses are about £2700 all in (and could be less, to be honest). I tried to put every spare pound into paying my debt. I never could find the full £2300 as I always overspent but I got close each month and maybe with the Emma app I will!

Here I am, still in June having achieved it. I have paid off £16,600 in 5 months and had a further £6400 of debt cancelled as it was unlawful. Gone. Done.

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I thought it would take literally years to do this. But treating paying my debt off as a blazing emergency worked. All my efforts for these 5 months have gone into saving money and paying it down as soon as I got my paycheck.

 

It’s been an incredible journey and one I’m glad to have shared and held myself accountable to by writing this blog. It had kept me focused on the goal.

 

I couldn’t end this post without thanking my girlfriend who has taught me so much about frugality and self-discipline these past few months. She has supported me through this period of change and now we can have a healthier and happier life together.

 

What now?

 

The next stage could be to sell my car. Then I genuinely would have no debt (other than my mortgage). But I do like that car… no, I love it.. but selling it is the sensible thing to do. Let us see.

 

Next month I shall start building a buffer of savings of around 3 month’s worth of expenses. On my current budget that is around £7000-8000. I will target about 4 months to get there.

 

 

 

Emma, my new best money friend.

Budgets are fantastic tools to allocate your monthly income against certain items and keep on track with your spending. I have used budgets for many years and they have indeed helped me manage my money better.

I have an Excel spreadsheet that has my income at the top from which I deduct all my expenses, leaving me with a remainder figure. At the moment that remainder is in theory quite large thanks to all the cutbacks I have made in my quest for financial freedom. But the quandary I find myself in is that the remaining money I actually have left always seems to fall short of this hallowed total.

When I budget, I have all the usual categories such as utilities, car, entertainment etc but I have two overarching types of outgoings which I call ‘fixed’ and ‘unfixed’.  In the fixed category I have expenses such as electricity direct debits, council tax, and mobile phone account. The unfixed category is the one that I have eating out, groceries and lunches. The idea is that these expenses will vary on a monthly basis and are unfixed.

The thinking behind these two categories was to differentiate between fixed regular monthly payments that I must make every month and unfixed discretionary spending that I have always struggled to keep track of and control.

Over the years I have tried to keep track of these ‘unfixed’ categories and have always failed. I either get bored or don’t want to take the time to track my expenses. I have had various short periods of time where I have tracked it but that has always fallen away and I find myself back at not tracking these and simply assigning some broad sweeping category called ‘eating out’ or similar. Even if I did the exercise of adding up my expenses, by the time I get round to it, it would be too late and I’d have already spent the money and blown the budget.

I have long since been on a hunt for a tool that can assist me with assigning expenses to my budget and actually keeping track of what I’m doing as I go.

Enter the app called Emma. I downloaded Emma for my iPhone about three weeks ago and have been using it on a daily basis.

The idea is that you give it access to all your accounts and credit cards and it keeps track of everything and automatically assigns items to a budget you input into Emma. I must say so far so good. After some initial troubles getting my Barclay Card account on there, it has been very easy to use. I can open it and see my balances live and also all my outgoings. It does little reports every week to highlight spending and alert you to areas you may have splurged.

I put the budget data from my Excel sheet into it without much trouble whatsoever. On the pro version, there are more budget categories, but to be honest, I feel I can live without them for now. I can see me buying the pro version at some point

I have not had such up to date spending data ever. I can see that I have £51 left of my ‘eating out’ budget with 8 days to go until the end of the month. With that kind of insight into my spending, it really does help me make real decisions on my spending.

Emma also removes the hassle of logging into multiple accounts to check balances and has that data in one place. I think this is one of the best features and certainly makes that leap of faith that one must take to give over all your banking passwords worth it.

Another useful feature in Emma is it works out how much money you have left before you are paid again. I think this is the clever bit as it features prominently on the first page as a huge reminder of what not to spend.

In the era where most transactions are via contactless payment, this is a great tool and one I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to take control of their budget and expenses.

There is also an investments section that is clearly a very useful tool in the same way that the bank accounts are. Sadly, none of my investment accounts is supported and I have not really delved into this section in great detail. However, for the simplicity of having all your pension and investment account in one place, I think Emma is great.

I am at a point after 5-6 months of trying FIRE that my finances are in good shape. I do believe that if I had met Emma before, I would have become far more aware of my finances and taken action much sooner. By action, I mean living with my means, actually knowing how much money I have to spend and feeling in control.

I would thoroughly recommend giving Emma a try.

Summertime is coming (allegedly)

Here we are in mid-June already. The 12C and pouring rain would lead anyone to believe it was mid-March, but that’s the UK for you.  It’s been a busy few weeks for me as I have travelled to Luxembourg several times for work and also had numerous new ideas and ventures come my way.

Firstly, the debt situation has continued to improve. I now only have £1440 of credit card debt left to pay. I was immensely proud of myself for getting this far and feel like this period of hard-core debt reduction is nearing its conclusion. That is getting me excited about starting to invest and save money.

I have been sitting back and reflecting on the journey since January this year. I had roughly £17,000 of loans, credits card and overdrafts. Now, of that, only £1440 left. I can’t believe it. I will write a dedicated article to mark the day I become debt free which I hope is fast approaching.

Secondly, I have started a side hustle. After the bitter disappointment of having 20+ rejections for pupillages, I realised there was nothing stopping me from setting up a legal advice consultancy. So, along with a former classmate, that’s exactly what I did. I have set up a legal consultancy specialising in construction law. I’m hugely excited about that and look forward to our first clients. Fingers crossed!

Lastly, in parallel, I have been quietly sending out my CV to various companies which have yielded me several interviews. It is always hard to know how much to ask for, but I think asking for at least 20% more than what I am currently on was a good guide. There are other factors to consider such as job security and type of work I will do. However, I do think it is my time to maximise my return and cash in. The more I earn, the quicker I will reach financial independence.

The situation at my current work has barely improved and I think I don’t need the stress of not knowing whether the company will be around much longer in my life. Working somewhere you are almost surprised when you receive your paycheck is no way to live.

So it’s been a very productive few weeks for me. I truly believe that focusing on the fire goals has allowed me to focus on other areas of my life for the better.

May update

May has been a long month by all measures. Many things have come to a head and I’ve felt both directionless and demotivated at times, and extremely excited about the future at others.

Firstly, the issues with the company have made me reassess what I am doing career-wise. I think I’ve mentally checked out of the company, and although I have half-heartedly applied for new jobs, it’s only a matter of time before I do so properly. I just feel there is no point in working hard for a company that is on the brink and is being run so irresponsibly. The atmosphere in the company has become rather unstable and certain individuals are attempting a power grab (the chairman’s son-in-law). As he is a deeply unpleasant man and is unlikely to be going anywhere, it only leaves me with one choice long term. In the meantime, I will keep working and collecting the dough.

Secondly, a visit by some antipodean friends of my girlfriend gave me some great ideas. They had given up their jobs and were planning on travelling round Europe in a camper van. It will be 3-4 months of adventure and fun. Although they were not officially doing ‘FIRE’ they were certainly far more financially free than me. It goes to show that at age 28 and 26, with careful saving, they were able to undertake this great adventure. They don’t do very high paid jobs but decided this was a goal and lived a lifestyle that would allow them to reach the goal. They lived in a shared house in Melbourne and didn’t eat out much. Now they have enough money to give up work, buy a camper van and live carefree for a bit. Well done them.

The great idea was the result of a side hustle that my friend had where he ran a website and provided services to contractors making £16,000 in the process. I realised that I could do exactly the same thing with my skills albeit, providing a different service. So I plan to set up a company of sorts and do it part-time. Should it take off, I would do it full time. Watch this space…

Debt progress

I have been paying off my debts steadily. I have to confess that I didn’t mention a £700 credit card bill that I let sit since February in any of my previous posts (mainly because I was ignoring its existence). So that was disappointing, but it was there and is now paid. I also paid £300 to my other loan which got me below the £3000 mark. This was a huge achievement and the end really is in sight.

I feel like I am 2-3 months away from clearing my debt. This is slightly longer than I had anticipated but I have felt the need to splurge a bit this month. A trip to Bath for the weekend, eating out a fair bit, and a trip to Scotland to visit my mother have eaten into my balance. However, they were all needed and enjoyable. I didn’t use a credit card to pay for any of them and I still have money in my account at the end of the month AND I paid £1000 of debt off. Not bad.

I do feel I will have to reign it in a bit this month however and really get to the end of the debt, but overall I feel that my finances are under far greater control than they ever were before.

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Dream campervan

 

 

 

Some anxiety

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The past three weeks have been rather difficult for me. Despite my genuine excitement at being able to ‘see the light at the end of the tunnel’ for my debts, some external forces have upset this happy FIRE ship.

On Tuesday shortly before Easter, when I arrived at my company’s office, there was a bouncer on the door and a notice saying we could not go in. Rather perturbed, myself, the Chairman and other employees didn’t really know what was going on.

I work for a small consultancy business with big ambitions, and one that has taken some big risks. Apparently, historic projects had lost some money and the company had not paid the rent in a misguided attempt to juggle cash flow. Big mistake; the landlord had kicked us out.

After several days of working from home, we were allowed back in at greatly unfavourable terms and I believe the company had to pay rent in advance.

Clearly, this caused a great deal of anxiety and stress for myself and everyone else. The kind of thoughts running through everyone’s head were did the company have enough money to pay bills? Would we be paid? Was the company going bust? They assured us it would be fine. I wasn’t convinced.

I am delighted to say that I got paid on the 30 April and I am feeling a bit better about it all. I may still look elsewhere for a job, but as I have just won my first new client, I am reluctant to pack in all that hard work. I left the security of big corporates to experience risk and reward and while I never expected to hit these lows, it is not always going to be plain sailing.

This remains an ongoing saga.

The fall out

What does this mean for my journey to financial independence? The answer to that question is threefold.

Firstly, It has somewhat knocked my confidence in what I am doing. The aggressive approach to paying off my debts effectively is pushing me to my limit. By the end of the month, I had £5 left in my account. I am refusing to spend on a credit card or take an overdraft. I made it to the end without breaking or missing any bills, but it didn’t feel great. I desperately needed the paycheck to stay afloat.

Secondly, I knew that using all my savings to pay off my debts was risky as it left no room for manoeuvre. I only have £200 in my savings which is not very much at all. I was feeling good as I was making such fine progress in paying off my debts, but it is a stark reminder to leave enough for emergencies. I had thought about this and reasoned that if something bad happened, I could use my credit card. However, my mentality has changed so much since starting FIRE that the thought of adding to my credit card and undoing the good work so far almost made me feel ill.  Perhaps leaving a months salary in the bank may have been smarter and letting the process take a couple months longer might have been a better move.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the whole episode has made me more determined to succeed at FIRE. The timing of this event was particularly bad as I have taken a big risk to clear debt leaving me with no reserves, but if this happened in 12 months time, I would have a large cushion of savings and investments on which to fall back. That thought alone is motivation for me to keep going. It is the quintessential reason that I am doing this so that I don’t need to rely on my job and other people who may be inept at running a business, for my livelihood.

To conclude, it seems that in taking a risk to clear my debts, I’ve accidentally put myself in the exact position that FIRE aims to get me out of. I always viewed this phase as the most painful part of gaining FI and it has been more painful than expected for reasons both within and outside of my control. I will persevere, but perhaps with more caution until I have a significant buffer behind me.

Housing in London

London, Londra, Londres. What a city. Home of The City, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. Hub of culture with galleries, museums and stunning architecture. Home to culinary delights and thriving nightlife. It is indeed a great place to live, but I’m not alone in that view.

The result of this popularity is many, many, people arrive from around the UK, Europe and the wider World come to experience what the exciting cultural melting pot has to offer.

My girlfriend came from Melbourne, the world’s most livable city for seven years running, to live in this city. I have many friends here from Spain, Hong Kong, Sweden, and the USA who love this city. I love this city and have lived here for 10 years in total (I myself came from Scotland to live here).

The downside to all this is of course that it is expensive to live in London. No shocks there I hear you say. However, what does this mean for my ambitions for financial independence?

High costs

I have been reading Mr Money Moustache’s (MMM) blog this weekend and I note that he lives in a rather dreary small town in the middle of nowhere in America. Although I love his blog, I am in no way ready to move to a place without the benefits of a world-class city.

To live in the UK in a similar place, I believe one would have live in a small suburb of Leeds or Norwich.

It led me to question, is my love of London hindering my development towards financial freedom?

MMM’s article points out, and rightly so, that your house is a place to live and not an investment. I have taken that view for many years now, but at the same time have benefitted from London’s surging property prices. I now have around a 60/40 ratio of debt to equity ratio.

MMM extolls the benefits of reducing costs to a minimum. Again, I completely agree and I am still on that journey and have made good progress. I was doing this before I’d heard of FIRE as I was simply broke for some time. I will continue to seek savings.

My elephant in the room is the cost of my mortgage and service charges on my flat.

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What can I do?

I could move out and sell my flat. The main issue here is I will have to rent or buy somewhere else. I believe renting a similar place would now be more expensive than paying my mortgage. I could go back to share housing, but I’m going to reference MMM’s article that a house is meant to make you happy and I’m not sure that this would achieve that! I’m 35 and while I loved sharing a house in my twenties, there is value in having my own place.

Having said that, I rent out my spare room for a few nights during the week to a friend. That nets me £500/month which helps me pay my £838 mortgage. The income is tax-free on the ‘rent a room scheme’ the UK government runs. Apparently, this is called ‘house hacking’. I did not realise this until recently either so well done me as I’ve been doing it for 5 years.

I have £350 service charges per month this year so still, suffer massive expense. I hope this will reduce back to something more reasonable next year.

I remortgaged last year to the lowest possible level at the time so I think that I am getting good value (but one I would highly recommend you do yourself).

My girlfriend moved into my flat in November 2018. and that too has been great, but it has the plus side of saving us both money. It’s allowed me to seriously pay off some debt, and also to allow her to fulfil her ambition of being a yoga teacher by paying for the expensive training.

However, today, I am wondering what more I can do. At some point, I may want to have a family and we may need to move to a bigger place. I can’t stomach the idea of getting an even larger mortgage to make that move to a bigger flat or a house (We could manage up to £650,000 which would mean a large 2 bed flat in the area we live in or a shitty house out in the sticks). I won’t even mention the Stamp Duty tax I would pay on that… Too soon for that.

I think I will stay put for now and find ways to reduce and reach the % savings I want. MMM’s article on the percentage you need to save is mind-blowing in its simplicity and is what is leading me to improve my ‘ratio’. If I stuck to my budget I could get about 46% presently, so much room for improvement. Once I sell my car I could get up to 55% (ok I admit I’m dragging my feet on that one!).

The biggest expense I currently have is my home and therefore reducing this will increase my percentage by the largest margin. Perhaps the exercise of exploring options has been useful to see that I actually have an OK deal. Perhaps it is more the exercise of patience on my part that is the real thing I need to do. Either way, I would probably have to do something drastic to make a significant difference. The dramatic thing may be a step too far (for me).

I would really appreciate any ideas from the FIRE community to help me with this conundrum.

 

 

Monthly update April 2019

I have been quite busy the past few weekends so have not had time to update my blog. After doing my calculations on the best way forward with paying off my mortgage or investing  (Calculations and calibrations ), I felt much better and have a direction to divert my efforts to post becoming debt free.

Last weekend I paid £1500 onto my credit card bringing the balance down to £3300. I decided not to go for the full £2000 as my lodger has not paid his rent yet (yes a continual problem – he does pay it but never on time!!). Again, the purpose of this was actively managing cash flow so I don’t need to spend on a credit card and can live off actual money in my account. Remember, I have deactivated my overdraft to prevent me from continually dipping into the red.

By putting constraints on my spending, I initially found it scary as I had become used to having money (debt) available no matter what. The end of the month seemed a long way off.  I now realise I was paying to have that ‘piece of mind’ which was actually just stress as I kept having a negative balance. The encouraging thing is I know it is temporary and I am going to get out of this rut and will have savings in the next few months.

Assets:

Flat: £450,000

Pension 1: £96,990

Pension 2: £4,506

Pension 3: £518

Investment: £1,800

ETF: £1007

Savings: £300

Debts: £3300

Mortgage: £259,000

Car loan: £12000

 

 

 

 

 

Calculations and calibrations

Last weekend shortly after making my blog post, buoyed by the confidence that I am approaching debt freedom, I spent several hours calculating whether it would be better for me to save money or to pay off my mortgage.

Firstly, there are several viewpoints on whether mortgage debt counts as ‘debt’. Of course it is different to a credit card or a car loan as you have purchased an asset that will appreciate in value and give you ‘equity’, and you pay off a chunk each month which also contributes. However, as that equity is tied up in the home, and when it comes to selling that house, all other houses will have increased a similar amount, is it really an asset?  It’s not like you can shave off a piece of the wall and spend that money right? And it doesn’t generate you an income, so many argue it is a liability.

I am on the side of thinking that a mortgage is a debt, but as you must live somewhere, you might as well be paying your own mortgage, rather than a landlord’s. Eventually, you will own the property.

I have been lucky as I bought my flat for £237,500 in 2012, and now would be able to achieve £450,000 for today.  I would not have achieved this gain had I rented for the same period.

Pay off mortgage or invest?

I couldn’t find a comparison online to see whether investing spare money in an ETF or making increased payments on the mortgage was better. I decided to have a go.

I made a couple of assumptions. Firstly, I will not start investing until June 2019, as, until that point, I will be paying off my actual debts. Secondly, I will be able to find £2000 per month to do this. Thirdly, that I assumed an annual rate of return on ETF investing of 10%. I based this on reading around blogs to see what other people thought and based on past performance of the stock market.

The assumptions I made about my mortgage were that my interest rate would remain the same as it is now at 1.69% (unlikely I know, but it is the current situation and I am unable to predict the future).

The method

I built the spreadsheet with three different options:

  1. Put £2000 into my mortgage every month, on top of my normal payment and save nothing;
  2. Put £1000 into my mortgage, and £1000 into an ETF; and
  3. Put £2000 into an ETF.

I calculated the monthly interest in each case and then added up so I would see the effects of compound interest accurately.

I don’t claim that this is a pinpoint accurate way to calculate it, but it gives me a picture of where I might end up in the future and the best way to start my FIRE journey.

The results

I was very surprised by the results of this exercise as the overwhelming long term best way to go was to put the maximum amount of money into an ETF. I believe this is for several reasons; firstly, the rate of return assumed of 10% is much higher than on my mortgage. For each £2000 I would make £200 annually compared to the £34 cost to borrow at 1.69% rate I pay. That’s a £166 annual difference for each payment without taking into account compound interest.

When it is shown like this, it is an absolute no brainer, but I still find it shocking. I had always believed that paying down a mortgage was the best way to go. In some ways, if you are in your forever home then it may be a good idea, but really I can’t see any way it makes sense to do it.

Should interest rates increase and the rates of return for the ETFs drop then it may make sense to switch over to repaying the mortgage faster.

The other exciting thing I realised was I will have £1,000,000 in savings by age 50. After that, thanks to compound interest, it really takes off.

The graph below is my total net-worth which includes house value, pension, ETF, and mortgage liability.

Screenshot 2019-03-31 at 14.47.59