January has a bad reputation. I accept that starting and finishing work in the dark can become a little depressing, but I can’t help think the media make it a whole lot worse. There were some beautiful days last month, and I was feeling very positive, so the constant bombardment of negative messages really stood out. Who ever invented ‘blue Monday’ has a lot to answer for. If you weren’t feeling down on that day, you started to question if you should be, with all the media attention. My employer even did a raffle to cheer people up, but the verbiage that came with the communication was very negative – telling people how down everyone must be feeling and why we shouldn’t worry, because “the month was nearly over”. Positive mental attitude is somewhat of a cliché, and definitely one of those over-used corporate mumbo jumbo type of phrases, but there is definitely something in it.
If everyone is telling you January is depressing and miserable, it must be true. If you have the mindset that January is a miserable time of year, you will probably have a miserable time.
Me? I chose to turn off the radio on blue Monday and took walks before work all month to see some beautiful sunrises that I would never get up at 4am to watch in the summer. Whenever possible, I arranged my work diary to take a break at sunset and go for a stroll. I saw a barn owl hunting on 3 occasions, and captured the image at the top of this post – and no, I didn’t use a filter.
If I had a let the January propaganda get to me, I could describe the freedom fund update for this month as depressing, but I would rather just see it as an inevitable correction (and I suspect there is more to come) and put it in perspective. The fund is still £173,699 or 17% up on this time last year, and our spending was well within the income a 4% safe withdrawal rate would provide us with, if we were to start taking it.
Freedom Fund Value: £1,192,885
Hypothetical monthly income @4% SWR: £3,961
Actual monthly expenses: £1,682*
This months expenses were quite low, partly because we decided to reset our monthly allowances from £300 to £250 after 2 years of just not spending that much. These personal allowances cover all non-joint expenditure (things like hobbies, personal electronics, clothes, shoes, haircuts, drinks and meals out with friends an colleagues).
From a working perspective, January was more or less, 1 week on, 1 week off.
We did have some joint travel expenses this month to make the most of one of those non-working weeks. As this was self catering in January and some distance from a town, it wasn’t too costly! We took a week long Airbnb break in Scotland, checking out another potential rural ‘retirement’ area. Whilst out on a walk during this trip, something happened that stood out to me as summing up financial independence perfectly. I was balancing on a rock, taking the photo on the right, when my phone went ping. Once I clambered back down, I looked at my email to see a notification of a dividend payment going into one of my investment accounts. There I was in the winter sunshine, in the middle of nowhere, enjoying the stunning colours of the Scottish landscape and my money was quietly working hard with no input from me.
Later in the week, I also took my first winter wild swim in that very loch. Our Airbnb host is part of a local wild swimming group, so I tagged along. Swimming in 4.5 deg C water in January isn’t for everyone, but I very much enjoyed it, and it will certainly not be my last dip in a Scottish loch.
As well and wild swimming, this year I have decided to track miles walked (my fitbit gives me a report every week) and see how this varies between working and non-working weeks. While I’m at it, I thought it would be fun to set myself a target. It is 603 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats – the two most distant points on the British mainland. I think walking the equivalent of there and back in 2022 seems like a good challenge, so 1206 miles. Now I have a new number to track every month 🙂
At the end of January, miles walked in 2022 = 131, so I am well on track.
I hope 2022 has started positively for you. What challenges have you set for yourself?
*Includes £500 per month personal allowances (£250 each), which may not be spent in the month, 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.