Finding Enough

The journey to financial independence and a world of choices

Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, UK

My first full month of semi retirement went by incredibly quickly, despite only half of it being spent working. It is far too early to tell how this version of semi-retirement will work for me, as right now it just feels like I’ve had a 2 week holiday, with the month being divided with the first 2 weeks working and the second two being ‘non-working’ weeks. The first of those non-working weeks was spent in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, and it did feel great to get outside of a 30 minute radius of home for the first time in months. We even ventured out to a local pub for dinner for the first time since last October.

The numbers this month show a slight improvement on April, but this is the last month there will be a ‘full’ contribution to my employer’s pension scheme, so there was still an element of accumulation as well as market movement and dividend income.

Freedom Fund Value: £1,102,842

Hypothetical monthly income @4% SWR: £3,676

Actual monthly expenses: £2,154*

At the end of May I received my first ‘half’ salary, which was actually 63% of my previous take home pay thanks to dropping out of the higher tax bracket and a couple of tax code changes to reflect working from home allowance for last year and a small EIS investment.

It is early days, but so far I haven’t been drawn into doing more than replying to a couple of emails that others couldn’t handle in my absence. There have been no calls or texts, which my out of office notification advise is the best way of getting hold of me urgently. I have started tracking time spent working during ‘non-working’ weeks to make sure it doesn’t start creeping up and have been pleased to note that the urge to check my work phone diminished very quickly after the first couple of days. I will find out next week how the delegation of responsibilities has worked for everyone else.

While we were away earlier in the month, in an effort to reduce the amount of cooking required in a holiday let, we tried something new and quite un-frugal and ordered a Gousto box (using a 40% off offer, so not totally spending with abandon :-)). This was our first experience of a recipe box service, and 2 things stood out apart from the cost, which was the reason we had never done it before. Firstly the amount of packaging involved in each meal was ridiculous! I understand the convenience element is important to most customers, but the pile of waste that was left after each meal was enough to put me off.

The other thing that was more surprising, was that I found having to trawl through 50 odd recipes, checking that none of them contained Mr W’s nemesis – the mushroom, very time consuming and annoying. Certainly it was no easier than flicking through a cookbook, looking for inspiration and deciding what to make. It didn’t help that they managed to pack the wrong ingredients for one of the recipes, so quite apart form being convenient, we were left having to improvise without the benefit of the store cupboard and freezer contents we would normally have at home. I did receive a credit to my account for the missing ingredient, but I don’t think I’ll be ordering again any time soon. I can see how this kind of a service might be helpful to those less confident in the kitchen, but quite apart from the added cost, it didn’t actually seem convenient to me, so I think I’ll stick with cookbooks.

My first non-working period was spent unwinding, holidaying and spending a few days with my parents, helping them to get some home maintenance jobs done, so the van conversion project has stalled. That needs to change in June if we are going to have a usable camper in time to get some use out of it this year.

*Includes £600 per month personal allowances (£300 each), which may not be spent, but which is not tracked. Some of it may show up in the freedom fund in the future, if savings build up and are invested.

Cowslips in a local meadow in April

What is likely to be my last month of full time work ever, went by in a flash. It doesn’t really seem real yet – especially as I will be starting May with 2 weeks full time in the office!

I have agreed a schedule of working weeks with my boss which totals half of the remaining year and allows me to take up to 4 ‘non-working’ weeks in one go. This schedule has me working more during key periods for the business, and working less during less busy periods (at least that’s the theory). I expect there will be some swapping of weeks by mutual agreement as the year progresses, but it is a good place to start.

Semi-retirement at 43 is a pretty big milestone in my life, and the numbers are looking similarly momentous this month. I have no idea how long this upward trajectory can sustain, but we’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

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Tomato & chilli seedlings

I can’t believe we’re a quarter of the way through 2021 already! The new growing season is upon us in the UK, and just the same as every year, I am a bit behind were I wanted to be. I have enjoyed growing my own vegetables since I was very young, ‘helping’ my Dad plant crops in the garden. I suspect my ‘help’ slowed proceedings rather than making a meaningful contribution, but it sparked an interest that has stayed with me (and I suspect improved my parents’ chances of getting me to eat said vegetables).

I have managed to get my potatoes planted and have sown tomatoes and chillis, which are currently enjoying the sunshine on the kitchen windowsill until it is warm enough for them to go into the greenhouse.

So, with plants growing well this month – what about the money tree a.k.a the Freedom Fund?

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Money is a tool, not a goal. For the last 5 years or so it has felt a lot like a goal, so when the goal was achieved, it took a while to figure out the next step. Mr W has made significant changes over the last year in moving from a full time office job to starting a small business and being able to choose his own hours. Now it is my turn.

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I don’t want to jinx it, but it really feels like spring is on the way. The daffodils are coming out and the UK government are starting to make positive noises about releasing lockdown restrictions. From the freezing conditions and snow at the start of the month, the last couple of weeks have brought a bit of sunshine and a much more cheerful mindset. My work life balance definitely moved in the wrong direction this month, but the recruitment activity which is going to allow me to work less is going very well. I hope to be able to define the timeline for a more work-optional lifestyle in the next couple of weeks.

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As I work out what the RE part of FIRE looks like for me, I have been thinking about the journey to get here and the decisions I made to put me in the position I am now in. The more I think about it, the more I believe that a few early decisions really laid the foundations for what I was able to do later.

I discovered the FIRE movement (Financial Independence Retire Early) in 2014, but that is only part of the story. I was not starting from zero, or worse, from a position of debt, I was building on solid financial decisions. So what were those decisions and what did my journey look like? I suppose the story starts 19 years before we reached our magic number:

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Snowdrops in the garden – a hardy but hopeful plant

We hit our magic number in Dec 2019, Mr.W took voluntary redundancy from his office job shortly afterwards and set about building a small business, allowing him to choose his own hours and take on as much or as little work as he wants. I am currently still working full time.

It’s now just over a year since we hit our number for the first time (and watched it leak away 3 months later at the start of the pandemic before recovering again last summer). Having hit the double comma milestone for the first time last month, the value of our freedom fund is slightly up again this month.

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What a great way to start the year! When we updated our spreadsheets this month, we were delighted to see that we had hit a big milestone. Despite the fact we only had one income in 2020, and therefore a significant drop in our saving rate, our money has been quietly toiling away. It is very satisfying to see the compounding machine we have been building for years really working for us.

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How many times have you heard someone say “one day I will……..”<insert dream / vision of the future>. Maybe you have even said it yourself a few times, but for most that vision will never become a reality for one simple reason – it is never backed up with any form of action. The passage of time alone will not make dreams a reality – it requires a little effort. Some goals may seem a long way off and difficult to achieve, but if it is important to you, the only person who can stop you is you. If you don’t think you can do it, you are right. The good news is – if you think you can do it, you are right. You just need to take that first step. We often over estimate how much we can achieve in a day, but it is far more common to under estimate what we can achieve in a year, just taking it a small step at a time.

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