If you are a collared dove, apparently September is nesting season. The collared doves in our garden always seem to spend most of the year working out how to build a nest and then finally work it out about 5 months after every other species, and 2021 was no exception. If you are a collared dove, it is apparently perfectly reasonable to expect a few sticks balanced in a tree to support an egg. We notice these hair-brained attempts at home-building when sticks start appearing on the patio in the same spot under a tree for a few days in a row. I suppose if you look at the size of the bird’s head, the brain to body size ratio can’t be large. After 3 or 4 failed attempts at nest making, we managed to take the above photo at the start of the month in a rather wobbly rose arch.
I am now 5 months into semi-retirement and September saw the start of my first consecutive 4 non-working week period. When I renegotiated my contract at work, one of the stipulations was that I was able to take 4 consecutive non-working weeks at least once per year.
This extended break comes off the back of a busy period of work which coincided with intensive focus on the van project outside work, so I was definitely ready for a change of pace. I will talk more about how we have chosen to make the most of this time in a separate post, but if you have read this blog before, you won’t be surprised to hear that it involved the first outing of the wombat adventure wagon (camper van conversion). As I write this towards the end of week 4, I am not thinking about work much at all. I do keep an occasional eye on my work emails and messages but increasingly, when I do check, I find my work phone needs charging as it has been so long since I last checked it. I do feel the occasional pang of guilt when I read an email about something going on that I would ordinarily help with, but I am getting much better at banishing these thoughts. I think time away from the corporate world, also brings improved clarity and perspective when I am at work, so it will be interesting to see, when I log on next week, whether I feel left behind or able to see the wood for the trees when others can’t.
Much as I haven’t been thinking about work, I haven’t been keeping an eye on the performance of the freedom fund this month either, so wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down to update our numbers for the month. This is how it looks at the end of September:
Freedom Fund Value: £1,133,017
Hypothetical monthly income @4% SWR: £3,777
Actual monthly expenses: £3710* 😱
It turns out this month saw a bit of a fall in value (nearly £14k down on last month), but after a series of all time highs with few additional contributions, this is not really a surprise, and certainly not cause for concern. It is still £9k more than the end of July.
It was also a super expensive month for us, with nearly £500 going on new brakes for the van when it failed it’s MOT the week before its first outing as a campervan! It turns out, water runs off the front of a transit custom through a gully under the windscreen which directs it straight onto the brakes. When you have it mainly sitting on the drive and not going anywhere, this translates to a lot of corrosion in one spot. That said, it has just notched up 75k miles, which seems to be generally considered the average time for replacement, so even with regular driving they probably wouldn’t have, lasted much longer.
As well as unexpected repair costs, the insurance for the van came up for renewal this month, and we spent a lot more on groceries and eating out on our campervan adventure than we would have if we were at home. Whilst nowhere near hotel or even self-catering accommodation prices, we did still rack up costs for campsite pitches along the way too.
For the first time in a long while, our monthly expenses were very close to the monthly income which a 4% withdrawal rate from our freedom fund would give us. That said, we were still within that figure even with all the extra expenses incurred. I will review properly at the end of the year, but a quick calculation shows our average monthly expenses for 2021 so far is £2,417. This demonstrates the importance of keeping things in perspective and looking at the context, not just the current headline.
Whilst enjoying my 4 weeks not working, I have been catching up on some reading too, including this post on Monevator. The author’s reflection on life post-FI and RE, made me reflect on the restrictions I still have on my time. Although I am much more autonomous than the ‘norm’, there are still restrictions which a part time job brings. I think the balance of working and non-working will probably feel different in the winter months, so I will stick to my plan of completing at least a year in this arrangement before re-assessing what I want.
Spending the last few weeks as we have, has certainly helped me focus on what is important to me and what I find fulfilling. Rather than feeling cramped or claustrophobic, van living really has made me realise just how little humans really need.