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.

3 thoughts on “Financial Independence + 17 months, May Update

  1. Al Cam says:

    The tax ‘bonus’ alone possibly makes it worthwhile; IMO HR (40%) tax is pretty evil!
    The US has more bands with smaller gaps which I suspect would be less painful.
    Presumably your personal contributions to your employers pension also halve and the rate of tax relief they attract may be smaller too – or is there a cunning plan thereabouts? Likewise, I guess you annual leave entitlement may have changed too?

    Love the practical details contained in this post – some comments/questions on these if I may:

    Tracking sounds like a good idea to me – but do not forget time spent tracking is time working as indeed is time spent thinking about setting up a tracking scheme.

    Did you agonise over your OOO notification?
    OOI what did you previously say on your OOO when you were on vacation?
    Do you know if in your company OOO notifications leave the intranet – ie are they delivered externally?

    The on/off switch on phones can be a handy feature – as can forgetfulness!

    Lastly, agree with you re G boxes – I have never understood this idea at all!!

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    1. My employers pension contribution has indeed halved. It is made by salary sacrifice, so I never ‘saw’ the higher rate tax relief. As I was always mindful to balance pension investment with accessibility earlier than traditional retirement age (ISA), I did not maximise the available tax relief that would have been available with larger pension contributions to either my employers pension or SIPP. I am not sure what kind of cunning plan I may be missing here, but am open to suggestions, if you can see an angle I may have overlooked?
      Annual leave entitlement has reduced, but car allowance has not nor have the private health benefits, so I am happy I have reached a good balance here – it’s not like I am likely to need more holiday. There is a line in my new contract allowing the swapping of working for non-working days by mutual consent, so this should cover anything specific which crops up.
      You are of course correct that tracking hours worked is also working, but I think you may be imagining something more complex than the scribbled note at the bottom of the whiteboard in my home office that reads “extra hours worked -> 0.5 + ………’ which I will add to if any more occasions arise 🙂

      I really didn’t agonise over my OOO reply – it simply states that I am OOO and when I will return, the SharePoint location of the resources I regularly get requests for, and the names of the two people who should be contacted in different circumstances in my absence. At the bottom there is a line which reads “if you need to contact me urgently, please call or text my mobile, otherwise I will respond on my return”. It read something pretty similar when I was working full time, but on holiday. The only difference is, then there was no-one in role who could really deal with much in my absence.
      I am able to set a different OOO reply for internal and external. The external one just states the date I will next be in the office and who to contact in my absence.

      I am probably being a bit more cautious than I need to be, as it is early days and I want this arrangement to work. The on/off switch on my phone is probably something I should exploit more going forwards.

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  2. Al Cam says:

    The precise interplay of salary sacrifice (inc. NI contributions) and employers contributions / matches and specifically how they relate (if at all) to additional voluntary contributions (AVC’s) – usually very specific to the scheme – might present some opportunities. For example, assuming AVC’s are permissible would they attract any employer match and/or would they be paid by salary sacrifice? If so – then why turn them down?
    BTW, I am assuming that this is a DC scheme?

    You may thus also be able to experiment (via your employers pension scheme – in presumably a fully reversible manner) to see see how you get on with effectively living without a salary – but I take your point about accessibility.

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