Finding Enough

The journey to financial independence and a world of choices

Summer is well and truly over, the heating is back on and it’s time to see how the numbers stack up.

Freedom Fund: £924,193

Hypothetical monthly income @ 4% SWR: £3,081

Actual Monthly Expenses: £1,913

September was definitely a month of 2 seasons, we started the month with summer and a spontaneous camping weekend, but only a week later we found ourselves by the sea barely able to stand up due to strong winds and intermittent horizonal rain. British weather is probably a good analogy for the stock market; no point trying to predict it, just accept it could change overnight! Amazingly this was also the month we finally received a refund from Ryanair for the flights which were cancelled in May. Better late than never I suppose, and it helped to offset the cost of getting the inherited car from my mother-in-law through it’s MOT! Still, a £360 garage bill is not bad considering the car cost us nothing.

September brought a bit of self-reflection too. Earlier this month, I realised that I was still reading the same book I started two months ago. This is unusual for me, so I tried to pin down what else had been taking up my time. To my horror, I could only really put it down to more of my normal reading time (sitting in bed in the evening – and in the mornings at weekends) being taken up with mindless phone scrolling. This is a very worrying trend, but probably not an uncommon one. It was not something I was consciously aware of, but a gradual change over time. I’ll just read this news article, which leads to another one, then a post from a friend pops up………before I knew it I’d lost an hour, and probably have very little to show for it. I don’t even have accounts on many of the major social media platforms, so what must this be like for those who have the full compliment? I now leave my phone in the kitchen when I go to bed.

With this fresh in my mind and the autumnal weather bringing a rainy weekend indoors, I decided to watch ‘The Social Dilemma’, a documentary about the impact of social media on society and individuals. The film included interviews with various ex-employees and whistle blowers of the big tech firms, and it was very interesting to hear their story from working on an exciting innovation to the realisation that no-one had really considered what the long-term implications might be beyond the potential for profit generation. I wasn’t surprised by the complexity and effectiveness of the algorithms that exist to monitor & predict our online behaviour, but I have never really considered that actually the divisive effect this AI is having on society is out of control. The AI can not solve the problem itself, as it can not understand that there is a problem, it is just doing what it was programmed to do, and learning to do it in ever more sophisticated ways. Who is going to turn off a billion dollar money making machine?

One quote really stayed with me and resonated with my recent experience: “There are two industries that refer to their customers as users; illegal drugs and software”.

Is social media a tool to make life easier / better and help us to stay in touch and achieve our goals or a needy friend who has developed increasingly effective tactics to keep our attention where they want it, and drain our time without us really noticing? I am a coach at work, and recently worked with an individual who was frustrated by their lack of career progression. We talked a lot about what they wanted to achieve and what actions they could take change the situation. Each month we agreed the small steps that would be taken before the next session, and each time the next session came around there were always excuses reasons why they had been too busy to make progress. When we talked through where their time is currently spent and how that maps to their priorities, the time lost to the social media vacuum everyday stood out, and it didn’t align to their stated values and goals. This was not something they had ever considered, it was just ‘normal’.

So step away from your phone and consider what is really important to you. There is nothing wrong with social media as a tool to stay connected, especially this year when so many of us are separated from real life interactions with family and friends, but I will certainly be more deliberate about the way my time is spent in future.

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