The Financial Dashboard – July 2019

The goals for July were:

  • Plan healthy weekly dinners
  • Exercise at least 3x a week
  • Get two more blogposts out (slipping off the bandwagon!)
  • Clear last of credit card debts

Checking the assets and liabilities:

July AssetsJuly Liabilities

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. This month my net worth grew by 4.33%. By sheer fluke it was the exact same net figure as last month. My savings rate, not including mortgage repayment, was 28.99%, nudging up my 2019 average rate to 16.28%.

Goals:

Goal failed: Plan healthy weekly dinners

The last two months have been properly hectic. There was a solid four week block at the end of June/ start of July where I was only at home for 8-12 hours every 2-3 days, through combination of some horrendous shift patterns, work trips and conferences. It’s therefore been pretty difficult to actually eat a healthy diet. I found myself snacking or having whatever was convenient. The last two weeks of July have been better, with proper healthy meals cooked using decent ingredients. The goal now is to set an actual meal plan for the week that we can stick to.

Goal failed: Exercise at least 3x a week

This is part of an ongoing goal/ battle to maintain some semblance of fitness. Same reason for failure as above, same excuse. When you’re working 12-16 hour days, plus commute, how to find time to exercise. One of the big issues was that the main gym I go to has very limited hours for the classes I do. I absolutely love it, and find it difficult to achieve dem gainz without going to these classes. I can probably manage two a week if I prioritise, but it’s a steep £55/month. I know from experience that on my own I lack the motivation to achieve my fitness goals. On top of this I pay £20/month to a sports club to go one-two times a week. This isn’t just exercise, but also a hobby and an interest, so I’m reluctant to give it up. So I’m left with £75/month for classes which sometimes I can only attend once or twice a week.

I could drop one of the above and go somewhere else. The logical option is to drop one. The emotive, irrational, behavioural driver of my decisions said no. Again from experience, exercise is incredibly important for my mental wellbeing. My self-image, self-confidence and tension/ stress levels are all tied to my exercise frequency. Instead I joined another (very local, very cheap) gym. It adds £26/month, but means I can exercise pretty much 24/7. I’m up to £101/month for my exercising choices.

How do you put a price on improved wellbeing?

How do you do a cost-benefit analysis for the spending choices you make?

Most of my cost-benefit spending choices are emotive. I write pros/ cons lists. I challenge myself- “Will I regret not making this spending”. But it’s not logical. So how to lay it out as cold hard facts.

In the medical world we use Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYS) to make utilitarian decisions about whether a healthcare intervention is cost effective. QALYS are defined by NICE as:

A measure of the state of health of a person or group in which the benefits, in terms of length of life, are adjusted to reflect the quality of life. One QALY is equal to 1 year of life in perfect health.
QALYs are calculated by estimating the years of life remaining for a patient following a particular treatment or intervention and weighting each year with a quality-of-life score (on a 0 to 1 scale). It is often measured in terms of the person’s ability to carry out the activities of daily life, and freedom from pain and mental disturbance. (1, 2)

It’s a pretty rough and ready system. It boils down a host of human experience to binary outputs. It’s led to a lot of complaints as exorbitantly expensive therapies are not supported by the NHS, because the cost does not outweigh the cumulative population benefit. E.g. spending a million quid to give a cancer/ cystic fibrosis/ MS patient an extra year, or spending a million quid to give 50,000 people with high blood pressure a 10% lower chance of a heart attack. Because it’s working on a population level it’s not really applicable to an individuals choices, but I wondered if there I something similar for individual wellbeing. EQ-5D-5L

The measure expected by NICE for the calculation of QALYS is the EQ-5D-5L (see above) (3). It’s brief, easy to answer, and primarily assess function. There is a push from the MRC towards developing a wellbeing-adjusted life year (WELBY) (4, 5). Some scales and tools are already being trialled, including the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (6). They have emerging evidence, but primarily function as an adjunct to existing disability measures (7). Trying to quantify functional happiness resultant from choices is something I’ll come back to in the future to flesh out as a separate post. Suffice to say I haven’t got an answer to my utilitarian question, so the heart will continue to rule.

Goal failed: Get two more blogposts out

Really struggled with this too. I’ve fourteen (count ’em) posts sat in my drafts box in various states of preparation, but had no time to actually finish any off. We’ll try this month.

Goal achieved: Clear last of credit card debts

I forgive myself my month of failures because for the first time in (I think) six years I’ve cleared all my credit card debt. Not since I started university have I had no unsecured debts. It’s a good feeling.

Short-Term Debt Q2

N.B. Eagle-eyed readers will note the £150 on my credit card in the liabilities dashboard above. I forgot to change some payment details on an online account, so that appeared after I had been at £0. 

Budgets

  • Groceries – Budget £300, spent £254, last month £139.65.
  • Entertainment – Budget £150, spent £186, last month £75. Turns out we didn’t spend nothing last month, my spreadsheet was out of whack. Now updated and we overspent this month by having a few dinners out and buying gifts for friends.
  • Transport – Budget £460, spent £618.29, last month £631.07. Lots of driving to different sites, plus a service means another expensive month.
  • Holiday – £150, spent £103.50, last month £0. We had a short break away.
  • Personal – £100/ £130.76/ £198.43. Saved much more this month.
  • Loans/ Credit – £350/ £493.30/ £890
  • Misc – £50/ £168.31/ £314.37. Soft furnishings mainly.

In the garden:

Overflowing with tomatoes (little cherries mainly), dwarf french and runner beans, courgettes and cucumbers. Onions going off, and some other bits going to seed. Pumpkins and squashes starting to really spread, and I’ve got some little cucamelons on the way.

Goals for next month:

  • Plan healthy weekly dinners
  • Exercise at least 3x a week
  • Get two more blogposts out
  • Recheck my budgets as I change jobs and drop my income by 1/4 (gotta love the NHS)

What’s in the pipeline: (Life continues to get in the way of blogging)

  • Stoicism and the finance world
  • Should I buy an electric car?
  • Q2 2019 – Green Credentials
  • Property Renovation Lessons Part III
  • Plus the usual Full English Accompaniments and other drivel…

Happy August everyone,

The Shrink

  1. https://www.nice.org.uk/glossary?letter=q
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality-adjusted_life_year
  3. https://euroqol.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/EQ-5D-5L_UserGuide_2015.pdf
  4. https://mrc.ukri.org/documents/pdf/improving-cross-sector-comparisons-using-qalys-and-other-measures-a-review-of-alternative-approaches-and-future-research/
  5. https://concepts.effectivealtruism.org/concepts/measuring-healthy-life-years/
  6. https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/med/research/platform/wemwbs/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5016960/
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The Full English – Media narratives

What’s piqued my interest this week?

Recently I’ve pretty much stopped listening to/ watching the news. This is not just down to the ongoing spin-doctoring in the Tory leadership election/ geopolitical elite, which frankly makes me so disenfranchised I feel like burying myself in soft peat.

No, what’s really getting my goat, is the descent of the media into a selection of soundbite opinions amongst a race to be first on the scene to a news story. This is even at the expense of editorial correctness or narrative structure. There’s a few exceptions to this: certain broadsheets (The Guardian, The FT, The Independent) appear to still be pursing the long read investigative journalism route. On the whole, and with finger squarely pointed at the BBC, the media seems to constantly be chasing a story first circulated on Twitter/ Reddit. In the days of social media, everyone is the first reporter on the scene. They share online, and whatever gets shared gets picked up, even if it runs counter to the print media’s planned direction. The print media then has to sprint to keep up, and has to include irrelevant people’s opinions to appear relevant to the common man. What does the common man think about this niche piece of technical news of which he has no understanding?

Case in point one: The NHS and Doctors’ pensions.

I’ve written about this before, as it hits close to home. Mr YFG did a far better job at explaining the technicalities, and the ins and outs of the Lifetime Allowance (1, 2). The nub of the issue is that many consultants are breaching the LTA when working extra shifts to make-up for the shortfall in NHS staff. Yes they’re paid well, but because these extra shifts, which the NHS requires in order to meet targets like the 2-week-wait for cancer referrals, are over the LTA the effective tax rate can be >100% for the shift. They’re effectively paying to work extra hours. Rather than working the extra hours they’re opting out. So the NHS is short-staffed. Which it has been for years, partly due to the hostile working environment created by the current government (despite their rhetoric). The Financial Times has been reporting very clearly on this for months, and within the health service Doctors’ reps (e.g. the BMA) have been banging on about it all year (3, 4). So why can’t the Guardian get its head round it? The article they’ve put out in the last week is titled something about “working to rule”, with a tagline:

“Doctors warn health services in danger of meltdown and facing ‘existential threat’” (5)

They can’t seem to decide where to take the piece. How do they make it relevant? Oh, I know, lets make it about the Tories dooming the NHS… ish. With a bit of confusing information about potential solutions for good measure. They can’t just report it with explanations. There has to be an angle. And they can’t compete with the likes of the Daily Mail, who appear to be on a one-way crusade against those vicious, spiteful, mean doctors. After all ‘waiting lists have doubled in three months as doctors refuse to work’ (6). How could they refuse to pay to work, to pay to take on responsibility for people’s lives (7). See here; Steve the welder from Leeds interviewed as a bloke off the street stating doctors should be forced to work. Why hell does Steve’s opinion matter?

Case in point two: PCP contracts on cars

I included two links to this last week. My god it does my nut. If you can’t afford a fancy car with simple maths, why the hell do you expect to get one when the maths is more complicated? Despite this there’s a slew of whinging Karens’ in the media, complaining that they were sold things they can’t afford (8). That they didn’t understand their contract (9, 10). Why is that anybody’s responsibility other than your own? A fool and his/her money are easily parted.

Ohh righhtttt, people don’t like being told they’re fools. Especially when sharks wearing lawyer suits are telling them that they’re owed compo, backed up by tit-rags (11). Because as the PPI gravy train ends those sharks are looking for a fresh meal, and they follow idiots to mis-selling like blood to an injured baby seal (12). They’ve already missed out once, when they waited with baited breath for the FCA to adjudicate mis-selling (13). All they got was tighter regs. Now they’ll be damned if they can’t find another way to that mis-selling cold-call (14). Never mind the fact it’s just people being idiots. I’ve talked before about how I think PCP is the next financial bubble, despite whatever wonky statistics the car industry share (15). In my opinion, the mouth-breathing hordes clamouring for compo because they can’t afford their finance deal are just the storm-clouds on the horizon. The fact the media follows their narrative of misery is just one more reason for my loss of respect.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

P.S. A bit late getting this out, what a day of sport!

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading (affiliate links):

Food Of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution – Terence McKenna – An ethnobotanist explores humanitys’ fascination with hallucinogenics, and the role of altered states of consciousness on the development of human society.

References:

  1. https://youngfiguy.com/nhs-pension-scheme-and-doctors/
  2. https://youngfiguy.com/the-lifetime-allowance/
  3. https://www.ft.com/content/e6d3e03c-4e12-11e9-b401-8d9ef1626294
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/08/nhs-faces-existential-threat-as-senior-doctors-work-to-rule
  5. https://www.hsj.co.uk/topics/pensions
  6. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7223053/Hospital-waiting-lists-DOUBLE-three-months-doctors-refuse-overtime-NHS-pension-reform.html
  7. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/07/07/nhs-waiting-lists-soaring-consultants-refuse-work-overtime/
  8. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-your-money-48776454
  9. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-7140919/Can-modify-car-finance-dangers.html
  10. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-4469742/Why-won-t-car-finance-let-hand-PCP-vs-HP.html
  11. https://www.thesun.co.uk/money/8673492/drivers-owned-compensation-car-finance-deals/
  12. https://www.gladstonebrookes.co.uk/blog/2019/03/29/pcp-compensation-new-car-buyers/
  13. https://www.am-online.com/news/finance/2018/09/13/ppi-lawyers-ready-to-react-to-fca-s-verdict-on-pcp-car-finance
  14. https://www.confused.com/car-finance/finance-options/car-finance-mis-selling-scandal
  15. https://www.independent.co.uk/money/spend-save/new-car-buy-consumers-finance-on-credit-diesel-registrations-drop-income-a8246106.html
  16. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48926232
  17. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48941011
  18. https://www.investing.com/news/stock-market-news/futures-push-higher-on-rate-cut-optimism-1922051
  19. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-7241921/Trump-fires-broadside-Facebooks-online-currency.html
  20. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-7240443/Lookers-shares-tumble-25-car-dealership-warns-profits-reverse.html
  21. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48954323
  22. https://monevator.com/why-your-pension-wont-be-plundered/
  23. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/07/3-high-yield-bargains.html/
  24. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/07/10/how-to-own-the-world-and-how-to-move-the-world/
  25. http://www.retirementinvestingtoday.com/2019/07/pf101.html
  26. https://cashflowcop.com/financial-freedom-by-making-decisions-like-a-police-commander/
  27. http://earlyretirementextreme.com/preliminaries-to-retiring-in-5-years.html
  28. https://indeedably.com/the-red-pill/
  29. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2019/07/08/schools-not-even-out-and-the-silly-season-is-well-underway/
  30. https://www.iretiredyoung.net/single-post/2019/07/12/Is-normal-life-better-than-FIRE
  31. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/07/08/why-lending-to-people-who-need-to-borrow-is-a-bad-idea/
  32. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/07/11/a-12-year-review-of-zopa/
  33. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/ski-holiday-2020-booked-fire-snow/
  34. https://www.msziyou.com/appeal-quits-working/
  35. https://www.msziyou.com/enough-funds-retire/
  36. https://thesavingninja.com/the-10-commandments-of-fire/
  37. https://thesavingninja.com/update-a-thought-experiment-about-happiness/
  38. https://drfire.co.uk/june-2019-report/
  39. https://ditchthecave.com/work-less-hard/
  40. http://www.frugalwoods.com/2019/07/12/a-vacation-and-other-june-2019-expenditures/
  41. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2019/07/12/timing-of-fire/
  42. https://lovelygreens.com/blackcurrant-rum-infusion-recipe/

The Financial Dashboard – June 2019

The goals for June were:

  • Finish my portfolio spreadsheet
  • Compare current insurance rates
  • Look into further financial planning: wills and income protection
  • Plan healthy weekly dinners
  • Exercise at least 3x a week

Checking the assets and liabilities:

Assets June

June Liabilities

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. This month my net worth grew by 6.54%. I’m very close now to clearing my credit card debt, and I’ve been quietly saving cash into emergency funds. I invested a bit in a CrowdFunding round (more on this in my Q2 update), so didn’t top up my ISA which has been merrily growing. The wonders of compounding!

Goals:
Goal achieved: Finish my portfolio spreadsheet

Pretty much there. Think I’ll be adding to it in the future, but for now I’ll be sharing some screenshots of it in my Q2 update.
Goal achieved: Compare current insurance rates

My car and house insurance both came due this month. I took advice from Money Saving Expert; renewing three weeks before time, optimising my job title and using multiple comparison sites (1). The usual comparison sites turned up some likely suspects, and like any good frugal bod, I did a bit of switching and saving. Perhaps most amusingly, Hastings Insurance quoted me £150 less through Confused.com than on my renewal document. They were cheapest and agreed to honour their online quote. That pays for a few drinks!
Goal achieved: Look into further financial planning: wills and income protection

I’ve been listening to a few podcasts lately, and it’s a big feature and recommendation of Meaningful Money and Money To The Masses that you should get proper financial planning for the worst as foundations for building wealth (2, 3). Shouldn’t be surprised really, given they’re mainly Chartered Financial Planners. I don’t have a will, but all my assets would go to MrsShrink and there’s no complicated stuff to deal with. I have some income protection through my job and life insurance to pay off my mortgage. MrsShrink is a different story, so we may get some professional advice to head-off difficult discussions in the future.
Goal failed: Plan healthy weekly dinners

Trying my best for this, but been working away a lot or on horrible hours. No excuse, so going to double down next month.
Goal failed: Exercise at least 3x a week

Again failed this for the reason above. Pause for thought considering I’m paying £75/per month on gyms/ sports clubs. I tell myself if I can go twice a week to both then it is cost effective. Need to look at my schedule and work out how I can sort this.

Budgets

  • Groceries – Budget £300, spent £102, last month £264.72. Eating whilst away a lot, hence spending little
  • Entertainment – Budget £150, spent £0, last month £139.47. I feel like this is incorrect, but turns out we’ve actually not done anything. How dull!
  • Transport – Budget £460, spent £631.07, last month £119.25. Car insurance!
  • Holiday – £150, spent £0, last month £0
  • Personal – £100/ £198.43/ £15. Spent some cash on new clothing, which was saved last month in a Starling ‘space’.
  • Loans/ Credit – £350/ £700/ £407.40
  • Misc – £50/ £14/ £59. Misc payments this month:
    • £14 for student membership

In the garden:

All going great guns now. Early potatoes eaten and feasted upon, maincrop trimmed back. Tomatoes and cucumbers doing well. Courgettes planted out and spreading. Dwarf french and climbing runner beans overwhelming sunflowers. Peas cropping and tasty alongside spinach beat, salad veg and early Chantenay carrots.

Goals for next month:

  • Plan healthy weekly dinners
  • Exercise at least 3x a week
  • Get two more blogposts out (slipping off the bandwagon!)
  • Clear last of credit card debts

What’s in the pipeline: (Life continues to get in the way of blogging)

  • Stoicism and the finance world
  • Should I buy an electric car?
  • Q2 2019 – Green Credentials
  • Property Renovation Lessons Part III
  • Plus the usual Full English Accompaniments and other drivel…

Happy July everyone,

The Shrink

References:

  1. https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/car-insurance/
  2. https://meaningfulmoney.tv/
  3. https://moneytothemasses.com/

The Full English – The Sam Vimes Boots Theory

What am I buggering on about this week?

I’m really enjoying my Starling bank accounts features, so it was good to read an article in The Verge this week about the touted move by Monzo into the US (1). Much of The Verge article is fawning which is unsurprising given the readership overlap between The Verge and the challenger banks. However the US market is ripe for the taking, struggling to even move to chip and pin payments or any sort of account switching service (2). A good time to be invested in one of them.

One of the features I’m really enjoying is the ‘goals’ or ‘spaces’ feature of my Starling account. After keeping my accounts last year I’ve been able to set accurate budgets, and the spaces allows me to put money aside without it ‘appearing’ in my balance. This has meant I can build up money for professional expenses, without having to dip into my credit card. I’m also, for the first time ever, putting money aside each month for clothes and holidays, meaning I don’t try to find the cash as and when I need it to replace holey shoes.

Putting money aside every month for predictable expenses, alongside having an emergency fund, is a cornerstone of good financial stability. The Boots Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness is a great way of explaining why. If you’ve not heard of the theory, it’s taken from the late great Terry Pratchett’s Men at Arms (3, 4)Captain Samuel Vimes thought process goes that “the reason that the rich were so rich… was because they managed to spend less money”. An example:

“Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.”

A good theory is often one that is obvious once it’s pointed out. This is one of them. I’ve fallen into this trap so many times. I’ve continued to live like a student, buying cheap clothes when my current threads wear out. I’m now trying to buy better quality (when it’s on sale of course), with the intention things will last longer. The Barbour jacket and flat cap isn’t far away.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading (affiliate links):

Food Of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution – Terence McKenna – An ethnobotanist explores humanitys’ fascination with hallucinogenics, and the role of altered states of consciousness on the development of human society.

References:

  1. https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/13/18663036/monzo-starling-mobile-banks-uk-report
  2. https://www.cnet.com/news/apple-card-beware-monzo-is-bringing-its-bank-of-the-future-to-the-us/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Vimes
  4. https://moneywise.com/a/boots-theory-of-socioeconomic-unfairness
  5. https://citywire.co.uk/investment-trust-insider/news/what-is-board-of-flagship-woodford-patient-capital-doing/a1237314
  6. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-7121795/Backlash-hits-UKs-largest-investment-platform-Hargreaves-Lansdown-investors-flee.html
  7. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-7124605/Majority-UK-homeowners-expect-house-prices-grow-despite-property-market-slowdown.html
  8. https://www.timeout.com/london/news/this-new-website-will-help-you-find-your-nearest-zero-waste-shop-and-save-the-planet-060619
  9. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jun/12/worlds-biggest-sovereign-wealth-fund-to-ditch-fossil-fuels
  10. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47643456
  11. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/13/mild-but-windy-winter-was-greenest-ever-for-uk-energy-use
  12. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/climate-change-breakdown-arctic-frost-thawing-canada-environment-a8959056.html
  13. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7139695/British-pensioners-run-money-10-YEARS-die-senior-economists-warn.html
  14. https://www.evidenceinvestor.com/neil-woodford-a-lesson-in-humility/
  15. http://aswathdamodaran.blogspot.com/2019/06/teslas-travails-curfew-for-corporate.html
  16. https://monevator.com/trust-life-assurance/
  17. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/06/12/whos-the-bitch-in-this-relationship/
  18. http://www.retirementinvestingtoday.com/2019/06/back-to-powerful-fi.html
  19. https://earlyretirementnow.com/2019/06/12/my-thoughts-on-small-cap-and-value-stocks/
  20. https://youngfiguy.com/mrs-yfg-what-i-wish-i-knew/
  21. https://cashflowcop.com/introvert-make-extra-money-working-from-home/
  22. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2019/06/14/half-a-century/
  23. http://thefirestarter.co.uk/perfection-is-the-enemy-of-happiness/
  24. https://ditchthecave.com/unpopular-opinions/
  25. https://drfire.co.uk/unpopular-opinion/
  26. https://indeedably.com/against-the-tide/
  27. https://awaytoless.com/thought-experiment-6-miss-way/
  28. https://asimplelifewithsam.com/2019/06/14/saving-ninja-thought-experiment-6/
  29. https://thesavingninja.com/unpopular-opinion/
  30. https://www.msziyou.com/dating-and-fi/
  31. https://pursuefire.com/monthly-net-worth-report-12-may/
  32. https://www.iretiredyoung.net/single-post/2019/06/14/Early-Retirement—our-net-worth-investing-journey-1
  33. https://www.jackwallington.com/allotment-month-43-priorities-supports-and-progress/
  34. https://agentsoffield.com/2019/06/09/i-love-big-butts/

The Full English – Student Loans Review

What am I buggering on about this week?

Lately I’ve been watching lots of finance videos/ podcasts. One of my guilty pleasures is The Dave Ramsey Show. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a highly successful call-in show based in the US, where Dave dishes out financial and often plain common-sense advice, which is syndicated and streamed on YouTube. It’s also sometimes akin to Jeremy Kyle, and I watch with morbid curiosity. Dave, being in the US, takes a fairly aggressive approach towards student loans as part of a drive to get rid of debt (1, 2):

But here across the pond we have a very different student loans structure. I did have to take a loan for my education, but luckily it was Plan 1. The current interest rate (1.75%) is less than the RPI. In practical terms my debt is reducing in value even if I don’t pay it off. I also had a maintenance grant with no expectation of repayment. These have since been scrapped. The student loans system in the UK functions more like a graduate tax. You only pay once you earn over a certain threshold (dependent on your plan), and then you pay a nine percent of those earnings. There’s lots of useful resources to guide you on this, including the government website (3, 4, 5). Another podcast I’m enjoying, Meaningful Money, explains it really well (6):

I’m very thankful I’m not on Plan 2, the current scheme. It’s significantly more painful than my scheme. The interest rates are significantly higher (3):

Student Loan rates

Six bloody percent! And because of the structure of it you only pay 9% of your earnings over the threshold, so your actual repayments are fractional. It just sits there, accruing until you reach the 30-year post-graduating threshold when it gets wiped. The only people who stand a chance of clearing it are the higher earners (>£50k), but if you’re just over that mark it will act as a continuous drain on your monthly takehome pay.

Now cleverer bods than I have clocked the coming hole in government funds. Hence the recently commissioned government review. It reported last week, and the findings have prompted much discussion (7, 8). They include such progressive ideas as reducing the maximum from £9,250 to £7,500, and reintroducing means-tested grants. They counteract this by bringing the repayment threshold down, and extending out the cancellation deadline to 40 years. The net result is that the highest earners will still pay more than the rest but less than under the current system. Middle earners will pay more, and more will pay off in full. Lowest earners are better off (9, 10).

Lifetime student loan

The whole system seems ponderous, and designed to confuse. The treasury would be happier with the proposed scheme (one suspects), as more people will pay it off in full. Ultimately these are all by-products of the attempt to commercialise higher education under the guise of widening access and equal opportunities. Beware of greeks bearing gifts.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading (affiliate links):

Food Of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution – Terence McKenna – An ethnobotanist explores humanitys’ fascination with hallucinogenics, and the role of altered states of consciousness on the development of human society.

References:

  1. https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/how-to-pay-off-student-loans-quickly
  2. https://youtu.be/CodCjMrYB1Y
  3. https://www.gov.uk/repaying-your-student-loan/what-you-pay
  4. https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/repaying-student-loans
  5. https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/student-loans-tuition-fees-changes/
  6. https://youtu.be/08NVnDG7UlY
  7. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48451474
  8. https://inews.co.uk/news/education/slash-tuition-fees-and-student-loans-interest-government-review-to-recommend/
  9. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48459910
  10. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/cut-university-tuition-fees-to-7-500-and-slash-interest-on-student-loans-review-n8lbkhz3s
  11. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/newcomer-vanguard-knocks-hargreaves-off-the-top-spot-g08jx50w9
  12. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/investing/funds/blackrock-launches-rival-vanguard-lifestrategy-funds-should/
  13. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48433692
  14. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/30/renewable-energy-jobs-in-uk-plunge-by-a-third
  15. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/may/31/uk-house-prices-slump-as-confidence-remains-subdued-says-survey
  16. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-7090137/UK-house-price-growth-falls-0-2-consumer-confidence-remains-subdued.html
  17. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/jun/03/neil-woodford-blocks-investors-from-pulling-cash-from-flagship-fund
  18. https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/no-way-to-stop-it-millions-of-pigs-culled-across-asia-as-swine-fever-spreads/ar-AACtx3M?ocid=spartanntp
  19. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48553193
  20. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/investing/article-7102797/Casual-investors-blocked-investing-10-P2P-firms.html
  21. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/uk-coal-power-energy-renewables-new-record
  22. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/trump-uk-visit-penis-stansted-airport-protest-climate-change-real-essex-a8941271.html
  23. https://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2019/jun/06/nicky-morgan-must-ask-questions-of-regulator-after-neil-woodford-saga
  24. https://citywire.co.uk/funds-insider/news/david-stevenson-beware-the-risk-of-uk-stock-market-bias/a1232783
  25. https://monevator.com/life-expectancy-for-couples/
  26. https://monevator.com/blackrock-mymap-fund-of-funds/
  27. https://monevator.com/index-funds-versus-superstar-investors/
  28. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/06/sainsburys-discounted-share-price.html/
  29. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/06/05/the-inestimable-advantages-of-paying-yourself-first/
  30. http://www.retirementinvestingtoday.com/2019/06/back-to-powerful-fi.html
  31. https://cashflowcop.com/should-i-charge-my-child-rent-the-pros-and-cons/
  32. https://cashflowcop.com/the-morning-brew-vs-finimize-financial-news-summarised-for-busy-people/
  33. http://earlyretirementextreme.com/the-danger-of-lifestyle-consumption.html
  34. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/06/tr-property-final-results.html
  35. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/05/capital-gearing-final-results.html
  36. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2019/06/07/investing-mistakes/
  37. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2019/06/01/may-2019-other-updates/
  38. http://thefirestarter.co.uk/caravan-psychology-and-economics-101/
  39. https://ditchthecave.com/break-the-routine/
  40. https://drfire.co.uk/may-2019-report/
  41. http://fiukmoney.co.uk/may-19-net-worth-and-monthly-update-10-504531-69688/
  42. https://thesavingninja.com/im-now-a-property-investor-savings-report-11/
  43. https://littlemissfire.com/the-importance-of-side-hustle-diversification/
  44. https://awaytoless.com/monthly-spending-may-2019/
  45. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/05/31/month-end-accounts-may-2019/
  46. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/whats-woodford-good-for/
  47. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/06/05/waspi-hypocrisy/
  48. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/green-money-greencoat-uk-wind-share-offer-update/
  49. https://financeyourfire.com/2019/06/04/portfolio-update-may-2019/
  50. https://pursuefire.com/monthly-each-way-betting-report-11-may/
  51. https://obviousinvestor.com/p2p-lending-portfolio-update-for-may-2019/
  52. https://www.iretiredyoung.net/single-post/2019/06/01/Early-Retirement-Couple—Part-2
  53. https://www.iretiredyoung.net/single-post/2019/06/07/Early-retirement-costs-targets—May-2019
  54. https://asimplelifewithsam.com/2019/06/07/may-spending/
  55. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2019/06/03/an-engineering-cameo-at-the-royal-bath-west-show/
  56. https://indeedably.com/gone-awry/
  57. https://indeedably.com/midlife-crisis/
  58. https://lovelygreens.com/when-to-harvest-potatoes/
  59. https://twothirstygardeners.co.uk/2019/05/wild-bees-natural-hive-attract-allotment-gardeners/
  60. https://twothirstygardeners.co.uk/2019/05/wormwood-making-vermouth-vermut-el-bandarra/
  61. https://agentsoffield.com/2019/05/26/first-harvest/

Our wedding price tag

Around this time last year MrsShrink and I tied the knot. In honour of this, I felt I should do the romantic thing and work out how much it cost. The first thing to say is, like our friends Mr and Mrs YFG, we looked at the costs of the average wedding aghast (1). It was actually at one of these £30k+ weddings that MrYFG and I realised we had known each other in real life long before we began commenting on each others blogs. The average wedding in the UK now costs ~£32k, and it’s rising (2). I suspect this is a positively skewed mean, as averages reported elsewhere range from £17.5-30k (3, 4, 5). Either way, no small potatoes. We weren’t willing to hoik ourselves to the eyeballs with credit card debt.

The wants list

Although I’m a bit of a traditionalist at heart, MrsShrink and I could never be called religious. MrsShrink would describe herself as a devout atheist. As such a church wedding was off the cards as to her it would be dishonest. So we sat down and tried to decide:

  • What is the point of a wedding?
  • What makes a good wedding?
  • What makes a wedding memorable and what leaves a sour memory?

The point

We reasoned that the point of a wedding was to celebrate our relationship and commitment to each other. How do you celebrate something in most cultures around the world? Throw a F-off party. The ceremony has symbolic importance to family members and friends, so we planned to include those we love in events as much as we could without being too ceremonial. If we were going to celebrate it was going to be with those we wanted to celebrate with, our closest friends. We both come from large extended families which introduced massive stress and financial implications in deciding who came. How do we tell Uncle S we’re not inviting him because we saw Aunty T more recently? Where do you draw the line? We said brothers, sisters, parents and that was it. No cousin B, who you only see semi-annually when someone who shares partial DNA cops it.

What makes a good wedding? The same ingredients as a good party; good food, free-flowing booze, good music, good people. What leaves a sour memory? An absence of any of the above, and interpersonal grief. Supply the first. Only invite good friends and avoid familial beef for the latter.

What did we do and what did it cost?

We planned a three day long party with our closest family in friends in a remote pile in the country. Free-flowing booze, ample food and pumping basslines. Sandwiched in the middle was a wedding ceremony. We kept a running budget as we went along, and a rough target figure, so now the dust has settled down here’s the numbers it came out at.

Wedding Venue

The average venue hire is apparently £4-5k, with another £500 for a church on top (2, 5) . We set some criteria for what we wanted which reduced our range. Due to our background we have friends all over the country, and if we were inviting them down we figured most would need to stay; therefore onsite or nearby accommodation. A church was off the cards and we wanted something good for all weathers; a stately home or castle set-up. We’ve been to weddings where members of the public are traipsing about gawping; sole use of the venue. None of that comes cheap. Most established venues have set ‘menus’ of wedding options, or slick brochures advertising the ‘packages’ and offers. We wanted to do our own thing; slick wedding packages aren’t particularly individual (to our mind), and you’re paying for the convenience of not planning or thinking. After spending hours of googling the SEO optimised wedding material I had a brainwave. Venues have to be licensed for a wedding…

Check the licensing list.

I pulled up all of the local counties’ government websites and downloaded their lists of registered wedding venues. Among them I found a gem. Minimal online presence, set up to run corporate away-day events in a country house in the middle of nowhere, they had a wedding license and accommodated a few weddings a year. Entire run of the stately home, like a giant self-catering hotel. Sauna, pool, games rooms, en-suite bedrooms for 40+ people. Total cost: £6600 for four days. Blew the budget a bit, but got to love Wales as I think elsewhere in the UK it would have been double that.

Food & Booze

So we’ve got a smallish number of people (~50) for a chilled out, non-stuffy wedding. We opted for a local company using local ingredients, served in an unfussy buffet way. We deliberately over-catered so there would be leftovers. The caterers cost us £1,600, plus a further £250 for waiting staff for the whole day. Significantly less that the £4.5k average (2). We called in favours as chef friends cooked breakfasts and big communal meals on the non-wedding days (2, 6). A family friend made a spectacular cake. Another family friend who runs a brewery supplied beer at cost. We went to Majestic and made the most of their free glass hire and wine delivery service. Alcohol was ultimately paid for by a family member, at a total of around £1000, less than the £1500 average.

Entertainment

The average cost of a four piece band is £1000-1500 for a wedding, plus another £200-800 for a DJ (5). We could have tapped up friends who play in a wedding band, but felt then they couldn’t enjoy the event. We hired a musician to play during the ‘reception’ for a couple of hours for £250, and then a commercial PA/ light system for the evening for £200. I spent a few days putting a Spotify playlist together (14 hour runtime), then cross-fading and mixing transitions. Significant saving, and the music didn’t stop until 4am.

Rings

I had put aside £2,500 for an engagement ring (slightly less than the UK average) (2). There was never an intention to buy new, and MrsShrink likes art deco. After a year spent looking for the right ring, I bought an antique stopgap for 1/10th of the price. She fell in love with it. It’s personal, perfect to her taste, and she doesn’t worry about getting mugged for a massive stone. The wedding rings themselves came from a local jeweller and cost £1100.

Wedding Dress/ Outfit

MrsShrink frankly hated the idea of spending £1,000 on a dress to wear once (2). Many national charities run specialist bridal stores where they collect together donated dresses. MrsShrink won’t tell me what she spent, but she ultimately bought two dresses (she couldn’t decide) for (I think) 1/4 of the average above. I decided that my own suit and that of the groomsmen should be something we could wear again. Why spend £100 each hiring a morning-suit when you can buy something decent from M&S for £150? I spent £400 buying suits, ties and accessories for the chaps, and £550 on a tailor-made suit for myself. One of my groomsmen uses his suit for work. I’ve since worn my suit as best for several events and to interviews, and it fits like a glove.

Photography, flowers and decorations

We spent £1000 on this. The average is apparently £1100-1400 (2, 5). We opted out of engagement/ honeymoon shoots. We were happy with some of the photos but not all, and I do wonder if we shouldn’t have scrimped here. Ultimately we have enough lovely photos for an album, and how many do you need/ how often do you look at them? MrsShrink initially made the save the dates, but when we number-crunched it turned out to be just as cost effective to have the actual invites printed (~£100). Standard wedding flowers apparently start at £250 (5). MrsShrink has an aversion to cut flowers – ‘Why would you think something that’s dying is pretty?’ – instead we ordered dried seasonal flowers. Not only did this come in at £220 for bouquets, corsages, button holes and table decorations, but one year on they’re still looking just as pretty on our mantelpiece. Bunting was sown by family members and dried petal confetti was collected by friends.

The final bill

All told we came in around £14,000, of which £3,000 came from family as gifts. Roughly half the ‘average’. If I’m honest MrsShrink was the main source of budgeting success. I struggle to control my spending in the name of a party. The biggest frugal tips we have:

  • Make a list of what will make your day special to you
  • Use the council wedding licence list to find hidden venues
  • Truly think about who you want there. Does it need to be every cousin and their step-mother-in-law?
  • Posh, class and tradition does not have to mean stuffy or expensive
  • Call on friends talents
  • Second hand items and charity shops are your friend
  • Dried flowers are cheaper and last longer than fresh
  • You’re getting married to the most important person in your life. Who are you trying to impress?

I’m sure we could have been more frugal, but we had a great time, so did our mates, and it’s remembered by everyone as a proper knees-up.

Cheers for reading,

The Shrink

 

References:

  1. https://youngfiguy.com/our-unconventional-and-cheap-wedding/
  2. https://www.hitched.co.uk/wedding-planning/organising-and-planning/the-average-wedding-cost-in-the-uk-revealed/
  3. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/wedding-cost-uk-average-how-much-marriage-ceremony-bridebook-a8460451.html
  4. https://www.hellomagazine.com/brides/2019021969949/how-much-does-wedding-cost-uk-2019/
  5. https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/blog/how-much-does-an-average-wedding-cost
  6. https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/family/cheaper-weddings/

The Full English -HM Rev & Customs MVP

What’s am I buggering on about this week?

IMO the current government are utterly inept. That doesn’t stop the civil servants in the Palace of Westminster though, oh no. And some clever dick in HM Rev & Customs has been playing in a blinder over the last few years. Act 1) Letting inheritance tax quietly roll in. TI covered this in the Monevator weekend reading a few weeks back, but I wanted to look in further detail (1). The increasing CGT returns has partly come from increasing inheritance tax. This is the wealth of the baby boomers, coming home to the treasuries roost. To quote the i article, in the past 20 years the total value of people’s estates has more than doubled, so that as a percentage of income it’s reaching 1930s levels (2). It will continue to rise as the wealthiest generation die off.

I don’t particularly like inheritance tax. Beyond personal reasons I see it as an inefficient method of redistributing wealth stinging the middle class rather than the truly rich (who can circumvent it), and essentially double-taxation. YFG said it better on Monevator than I ever can (3, 4). Inheritance tax is currently at a relative effective low, but there are many calls for change. Some of this is driven by the way inheritance tax is stinging younger generations, who due to house price change have not been able to afford property and so have been waiting for inheritance to give them a step on the ladder (2). A survey published this week by Charles Stanley suggested that for many this expectation was unrealistic (5). Millennials were expecting 10x the median inheritance amount. The expectation was that this would act as their housing deposit, whereas in actuality the people they were inheriting from are living longer and more likely to use their house equity for nursing homes and then inheritance tax bills. Silly millennials.

What about Act 2? The BTL taxation noose. I’ve talked before about how I believe BTL is HMRC’s low-hanging fruit of choice. Now landlords are looking to sell-up as the new rules come into force (6). I think this is a really clever piece of rule-making. In the changes to Section 21, the government have made it harder to evict no-fault tenants, appeasing a big voting base (7). In the increase in stamp duty and removal of income tax relief they’ve stung profits, but harmonised with other income sources (8). Offsetting mortgage interest payments against income tax makes some sense from a business world point of view; like using stock write-downs and depreciation to reduce income assessments. It doesn’t make sense when you compare it to other private property scenarios, where you can’t offset your income tax bill with your domestic mortgage interest. Here it levels the playing field. The changes to the minimum EPC rating required for rental (now E), and tightening of BTL lending controls are just the kicker (9).

Practical upshot of tightening the rules on the BTL free-for-all, hobby landlords are driven out and professional landlords remain. Landlords come in all shapes and sizes, but those just about making the sums work are now going to struggle. The sale of these previously rented properties provides a nice CGT boost to the treasury, and also brings new property onto the market at a time when there is a housing stock shortage: double win! Just a shame these properties are generally only fair to middling quality, being ex-rental.

No longer interested in a BTL? Well you could go for a REIT, but I learnt this week about REAPs; Real Estate Annuity Plans (10). A sort of real estate investment bond, which funds affordable housing developments. Return is only 3%, but you get a nice warm glow inside without having to trigger your poverty allergy.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading (affiliate links):

Food Of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution – Terence McKenna – An ethnobotanist explores humanitys’ fascination with hallucinogenics, and the role of altered states of consciousness on the development of human society.

References:

  1. https://monevator.com/weekend-reading-capital-gains-tax-receipts-are-soaring-a-good-bad-problem/
  2. https://inews.co.uk/news/business/britain-entering-golden-age-inheritance-baby-boomers-leave-assets/
  3. https://youngfiguy.com/inheritance/
  4. https://monevator.com/inheritance-tax/
  5. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48213333
  6. https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/05/landlords-should-you-sell-your-buy-to-let-properties/
  7. https://landlords.org.uk/support-advice/april-2019-changes-to-section-21
  8. https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/buy-to-let-property-investments
  9. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-private-rented-property-minimum-standard-landlord-guidance-documents
  10. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/may/04/ethical-housing-reaping-the-benefit-while-helping-out
  11. https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/05/almost-700000-fewer-savers-open-cash-isas-are-isas-still-worthwhile/
  12. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48185806
  13. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/06/universal-basic-income-public-realm-poverty-inequality
  14. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48174797
  15. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/05/traders-brace-for-sharp-sell-off-on-trumps-tariff-threat.html
  16. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/may/06/zombie-firms-a-major-drag-on-uk-economy-analysis-shows
  17. https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/uk-coal-renewables-record-climate-change-fossil-fuels-a8901436.html
  18. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48215896
  19. https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/industry/analysis-just-how-green-are-electric-vehicles
  20. https://news.sky.com/video/i-owe-it-to-patients-to-work-extra-hours-but-im-being-penalised-11714585?fbclid=IwAR2cS3aGhMMhk0wyWBpo4K0q3H-fr7adUyEzSDaZB9eKoYA2bsNoSFN3QA0
  21. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/may/05/airbnb-homelessness-renting-housing-accommodation-social-policy-cities-travel-leisure
  22. https://monevator.com/personal-financial-disaster/
  23. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2019/05/08/tesla-procrastination/
  24. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/05/reckitt-benckiser-share-price-decline-good-value.html/
  25. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/05/selling-compass-group-after-share-price-gains.html/
  26. https://3652daysblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/06/stocktake-q1-2019/
  27. https://cashflowcop.com/multi-millionaires-and-still-have-to-make-choices-johns-story/
  28. http://earlyretirementextreme.com/what-permaculture-and-ere-have-in-common.html
  29. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/05/im-getting-up-to-speed-on-climate.html
  30. https://firevlondon.com/2019/05/11/april-2019-were-back-on-top-of-the-world/
  31. https://ditchthecave.com/love-to-lose-my-job/
  32. http://fiukmoney.co.uk/april-19-net-worth-and-monthly-update-9-434843-561/
  33. https://thesavingninja.com/dont-borrow-worry-from-tomorrow/
  34. https://awaytoless.com/why-we-keep-our-finances-separate/
  35. https://awaytoless.com/monthly-spending-april-2019/
  36. http://eaglesfeartoperch.blogspot.com/2019/05/two-islands.html
  37. https://www.iretiredyoung.net/single-post/2019/05/10/Some-early-retirement-confusion
  38. https://indeedably.com/challenge-the-premise/
  39. https://indeedably.com/history-repeats/
  40. https://www.jackwallington.com/long-term-planting-on-the-allotment/
  41. https://sharpenyourspades.com/2019/05/10/allotment-jobs-for-may/
  42. https://paulnelson90.wordpress.com/2019/05/10/what-to-do-with-radish/