The Financial Dashboard – September 2019

The goals for September were:

  • Plan healthy weekly dinners
  • Exercise at least 3x a week
  • Get two more blogposts out
  • Look for a skip bike to use for short local journeys
  • De-clutter spare room for charity shop

Checking the assets and liabilities:

September AssetsSeptember Liabilities

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. This month my net worth grew by 3.32%, modest but enough to push me over the £40k barrier. My savings rate, not including mortgage repayment, was 43.76%, pushing my average up to 21.48%. That’s my best savings rate of the year.

Goals:

Goal achieved: Plan healthy weekly dinners

Within the confines of eating out/ in with friends, and the times when we’ve been away, I think this has been achieved. We’ve eaten less oven or ready meals, and more stuff fresh from scratch using our home grown ingredients. I want to build on this, by adopting a meal plan – a goal for next month.

Goal achieved: Exercise at least 3x a week

This was actually really hard. Life has a tendency to throw curveballs, and trying to fit in three workouts every week around work commitments, socialising, house chores and sleep has been challenging. Again I want to build on this – for next month it’s 4x a week.

Goal failed: Get two more blogposts out

Slightly better. June and July were a real lull, with only three and four posts, compared to eight in one month at the start of the year. I managed five in August, but still not back to my old standard. I’m going to aim for six this month.

Goal failed: Look for a skip bike to use for short local journeys

I decided not to do this, as I don’t need more stuff. I’m going to get my old bike repaired again instead.

Goal failed: De-clutter spare room for charity shop

Still a work in progress.

Budgets

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £144.75, last month £299.90
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £101, last month £81
  • Transport – Budget £460, spent £257.49, last month £241.97
  • Holiday – £150, spent £0, last month £0
  • Personal – £100/ £87.75/ £62.99
  • Loans/ Credit – £0/ £152.25/ £152.25
  • Misc – £50/ £75.65/ £30 – Gifts mainly
  • Fees – £70 /£110.40/ £209.75 – Vets fees

In the garden:

More chutneys this month as our tomatoes and beans come to an end. A few courgettes still soldiering on, but I think this weeks weather might kill them off. Despite a strong start my pumpkins are sadly the size of plums. I’ve planted a lot of new stuff this month; winter potatoes, onions for spring, spinach beet, carrots and spring cabbage.

Goals for next month:

  • Adopt a weekly meal plan
  • Exercise 4x a week
  • Get six blogposts out across the month
  • Repair pushbike
  • De-clutter spare room for the charity shop

What’s in the pipeline: (Hopefully a couple this month)

  • Stoicism and the finance world
  • Should I buy an electric car?
  • Q3 2019 – Steady as she goes
  • Property Renovation Lessons Part III
  • Plus the usual Full English Accompaniments and other drivel…

Happy October everyone,

The Shrink

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The Full English – The Crowdfunded Bubble

Calling economic bubbles is a no-lose situation for a blogger. If you’re correct, whoop-de-do, celebrate your foresight. If you’re wrong, you’re a grumpy pessimist but no worse off. With that caveat readers may recall a couple of weeks ago, in the last Full English, I mentioned that Curve had completed crowdfunding with a pre-money valuation of £201,000,000 (1). Yes, that is the correct number of decimal spaces. It left me asking, how the hell are people valuing these companies?

Turns out I’m not alone in wondering that (2). The hard data suggests that the price paid for a percentage of the company by the crowd is far higher than private equity pays (3). For your more expensive price you get B class shares and rarely see information about the valuation in the prospectus. How did we reach this point?

In a world of low interest rates investors are looking for returns. We’ve all read Smarter Investing, we know we should be avoiding active funds that would typically partake of Venture Capital. We exist in an economic climate that favours growth over value strategies. We see success stories like Facebook, Instagram, Monzo, Brewdog, Uber. We want a slice of that growth, and there are new and exciting ways to access it (4). So we apply some cognitive biases; illusion of control and confirmation bias. We can surely pick the winners.

We look to platforms like CrowdCube, Seedrs, etc to find a way in at the ground floor of the next unicorn. Because our purchase is fuelled by optimism (and a whole lot of sales psychology), we’re willing to pay over the odds for the ground floor. This drives competition for shares and increases the valuation of the company. Basic economics. When the company lists on the stock market you get off at the penthouse suite, suddenly a millionaire. The tech IPO procession continues (5).

But that competition for a slice of the pie ignores the companies bottom line. Crowdfunding platforms are slick presentations to consumers, not like the due diligence of a traditional capital firm. The position of power is with the listing company, not the lender. This again drives up the valuation of the market.

The companies, overvalued with optimism, get valued by the market fairly and fall from their listing price. The tech companies that have gone through the IPO process are losing money (6). And people are taking notice. IPOs are being shelved, most notably the recent WeWork delay (7, 8). Traditional institutions do not want an overvalued investment, because in the long run they won’t get a return. They don’t want to see their shares costing billions of dollars through the efficient market (9). While the stock is unlisted the return and gain/loss is not realised.

This isn’t stopping profitable and strong companies going public. AirBnB continues to voice that it will soon, now setting a timeline for next year (10). However as Crowdfunding grows it will continue to offer a window into murky investments, promising a lot but with little to report. It will continue to inflate prices with optimistic opinions of growth. At some point all the optimism becomes a little too sweet, and it’ll be interesting to see if we end up in a crowdfunded private-company rerun of the dot-com crash.

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.crowdfundinsider.com/2019/09/151157-fastest-startup-to-ever-hit-4-million-crowdfunding-on-crowdcube-curve-kills-it-now-at-5-5-million/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unicorn_bubble
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/goncalodevasconcelos/2015/05/27/valuations-in-crowdfunding-are-we-all-barking-mad/
  4. https://monevator.com/venture-capital-investing/
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/mar/30/lyft-ipo-stock-market-unicorns-uber-airbnb-slack
  6. https://www.spiked-online.com/2019/09/13/uber-and-out-why-the-tech-unicorns-keep-losing-money/
  7. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49687338
  8. https://moneyweek.com/515081/proof-that-the-tech-company-unicorn-ipo-bubble-is-bursting/
  9. https://marketrealist.com/2019/09/wework-ipo-shelved-unicorn-stocks-lose-luster/
  10. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49761461
  11. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-7452637/Never-ending-Brexit-saga-continues-drag-UK-housing-market-RICS.html
  12. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49752883
  13. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/saving/article-7468833/Almost-half-banks-cut-fixed-rate-savings-August.html
  14. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/sep/17/britons-are-still-worse-off-than-in-2008-new-research-claims
  15. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49738869
  16. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-49567197
  17. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/sep/16/more-than-1400-uk-restaurants-close-as-casual-dining-crunch-bites
  18. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49721436
  19. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-7472389/Sirius-Minerals-shares-crash-fails-secure-funding-mine.html
  20. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49766418
  21. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49720446
  22. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/20/you-may-have-more-time-than-you-think-to-achieve-financial-security.html
  23. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2019/09/12/michael-burry-index-funds/
  24. https://earlyretirementnow.com/2019/09/17/market-peak-upcoming-recession/
  25. https://monevator.com/weekend-reading-how-could-the-financial-services-sector-better-cater-for-the-likes-of-us/
  26. https://monevator.com/my-biggest-fi-demon-status-anxiety/
  27. https://monevator.com/what-is-a-master-trust-pension/
  28. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/09/mitie-dividend.html/
  29. https://cashflowcop.com/csi-finance/
  30. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/09/18/translating-financial-independence-from-american-to-british/
  31. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/09/11/the-ice-sculpture-the-turkey-and-the-rollercoaster/
  32. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/09/afc-energy-portfolio-addition.html
  33. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/09/first-solar-new-addition.html
  34. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/09/bluefield-solar-trust-full-year-results.html
  35. http://www.thefrugalcottage.com/aiming-for-fire/
  36. https://littlemissfire.com/erase-and-rewind/
  37. https://littlemissfire.com/why-im-the-fire-underdog-and-thats-ok/
  38. https://www.msziyou.com/money-is-political/
  39. https://www.msziyou.com/net-worth-updates-august-2019/
  40. http://thefirestarter.co.uk/random-update-aka-what-the-hell-have-i-been-up-to-over-the-last-3-months/
  41. https://thesavingninja.com/how-to-get-a-first-class-flight-for-free/
  42. https://thesavingninja.com/savings-report-14/
  43. https://asimplelifewithsam.com/2019/09/13/august-review/
  44. https://www.iretiredyoung.net/single-post/2019/09/13/Early-retirement-costs-targets—August-2019
  45. https://pursuefire.com/monthly-update-15-august/
  46. https://pursuefire.com/pursue-fire-updates/
  47. http://eaglesfeartoperch.blogspot.com/2019/09/tax-planning-for-retirement-savings.html
  48. https://thefifox.wordpress.com/2019/09/12/how-to-calculate-your-personal-investing-rate-the-usability-update-that-savings-rate-desperately-needs/
  49. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2019/09/12/db-pension-options/
  50. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/09/13/the-importance-of-being-earning/
  51. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/exit-strategy-update-is-it-best-to-quit-your-job-face-to-face/
  52. https://indeedably.com/telephone/
  53. https://indeedably.com/volte-face/
  54. https://indeedably.com/own-goal/
  55. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2019/09/19/random-shares/
  56. https://lovelygreens.com/tips-for-starting-a-new-vegetable-garden/
  57. https://www.jackwallington.com/allotment-month-46-tomatoes-edamame-apples-raspberries-and-sunflowers/

The Financial Dashboard – August 2019

The goals for August were:

  • 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)

Checking the assets and liabilities:

Assets AugustLiabilities August

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. This month my net worth grew by 5.47%, the second best this year. My savings rate, not including mortgage repayment, was 34.66%, pushing my average up to 18.69%.

Goals:

Goal failed: Plan healthy weekly dinners

Getting better at this, but continuing to be away a lot has meant that having the time and space to plan out food for the week has been tricky. I had begun to rely on frozen food, so we’ve gone back to fresh, and I’ve been making big batches using the glut of veg from the garden. We continue to just about manage a split of three meat, one fish, three veggie, but lunches are often whatever I can snatch. With a job change I need to get better at organising and preparing in advance.

Goal failed: Exercise at least 3x a week

Sort of fail. I averaged exercise 3x a week, but had a week where I only managed to go twice. Keeping this on to pressurise myself into making it a strict 3x in a week.

Goal failed: Get two more blogposts out

Miserable. Even worse than July. I’m just not at home or in front of a desk with free time enough to write at the moment. The pressure will remain on.

Goal achieved: Recheck my budgets as I change jobs and drop my income by 1/4 

A necessity, as I change my job in the annual Black Wednesday shuffle, when all hospitals are suddenly staffed by junior doctors asking; “What do I do?”, “Where do I go?”, and “Who am I?”. My new jobs incurs a pay cut of 1/4, as I’m working fewer unsociable hours. Looking at my budgets:

Budgets

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £299.90, last month £254.

This probably isn’t an accurate representation, as our finances are now settled enough that all food bills go through out joint account, while this was set up when we were doing food individually. Somehow I seem to have spent £135 of my own money and £250 from the joint this month, and an eye-watering £490 from the joint last month. A few £50 shops, with lots of £10-20 top ups has really bitten a chunk out of our monthly earnings. I’m going to bring the budget down from £300 to £200, notionally as £150 for the joint (£300/2) and £50 from my own. I used to survive on £20/week, so there’s plenty of fat to trim.

  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £81, last month £186.

This suffers the same problem as the groceries section, in that the budget was set pre-usage of our main joint account. This mainly goes on eating out at restaurants or activities with friends. We could do better at getting out into the countryside for free again, and we should only really eat out once a month. Going to trim this down from £150 to £100 and see how we get on.

  • Transport – Budget £460, spent £241.97, last month £618.29.

Looked at this relatively recently, so it’s going to remain unchanged. Will hopefully be driving less in the new job, so can save some petrol money. Really need to get back on the bike too.

  • Holiday – £150, spent £0, last month £103.50.

Planning something for later in the year, and putting the budget towards that in a Starling pot.

  • Personal – £100/ £62.99/ £30.76.

This is clothes, gifts, books, games, DVDs, trips to the barber etc. I always feel like it should be more, but I suspect a lot of stuff ends up under Misc or Groceries (supermarket clothing etc). I’m going to keep this the same.

  • Loans/ Credit – £0/ £152.25/ £493.30

Big changes here, as now my credit card debt is cleared I want to make it an exception if I have to use and pay off any credit card. Dropping the budget to £0, as this is what I should be aiming to be paying.

  • Misc – £50/ £30/ £119.35 

This is my catch all for unexpected or difficult to classify things. I have empty fields in my spreadsheet capture the data. No change to this, as you always need a float

  • Fees – £70 /£209.75/ £-

New data. This is all my monthly fees for services; mobile phone, internet, bank account fees, life insurance, plus professional subscriptions. It’s a pretty jagged graph, as many of my professional costs fall yearly as a big sum which I’m now averaging across months as savings in another Starling pot. Nominally I’ll set a budget which incorporates all my routine monthly direct debits without the lumpy stuff. Off the back of this I went and spoke to my mobile phone provider, renegotiating my contract and reducing the monthly figure by half.

In the garden:

Full glut mode activated. Chutneys everywhere. Excess beans, melons and tomatoes. Potatoes finally harvested, sadly a bit grub-munched. Sunflowers drying for their seeds. Cucamelons tiny bursts of joy. Purple carrots adding colour to salads. Just in time for that first chill wind.

Goals for next month:

  • Plan healthy weekly dinners
  • Exercise at least 3x a week
  • Get two more blogposts out
  • Look for a skip bike to use for short local journeys
  • De-clutter spare room for charity shop

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 September everyone,

The Shrink

The Full English Accompaniment – Three basic money skills

What’s piqued my interest this week?

In the last Full English I wrote about P2P and included Kiva, the P2P lending platform that offers loans to those in third-world countries that need an opportunity. This prompted a comment from Weenie about my opinion on charity crowdfunding. Dave Ramsey, that financial cross between Jeremy Kyle and Frasier, talks about 3 basic money skills; spending responsibly, saving and giving (1).

Spending responsibly I’m getting a grip on. I’m wired as a spender. I can be thrifty – I don’t instinctively like to flash cash and I have a tendency to do jobs myself rather than get people in, but I like things. Tools, art, books, cars. I get satisfaction from having the right thing for the right moment. Not very minimalist, frugal or FIRE is it?

Number two, saving, I’m also getting a grip on. I now have an emergency fund and I’m paying myself first every month. I was terrible and this is an upwards slope.

Number three, giving, I’m rubbish at.

I don’t mind giving time, effort or my skills. In my head, I make this trade off for my work. I could earn a lot more abroad, in the private sector, or even in another line of work. I don’t, because I like my job and I like to help people.

I don’t like giving things. I’m shit at gifts (Mrs Shrink fully embraces this role). I don’t mind lending stuff out, but I get very grumpy if I don’t get it back promptly. I collect things, that often have sentimental value, and I struggle to extricate the emotion from the object. I am getting better at de-cluttering, giving lots of stuff to charity if I can no longer see a utility.

I’m even worse at money. This is for three main reasons:

  1. Most of the companies which come round asking for your money as a charity are not interested in the giving either. They are businesses, and by giving you are supporting their business model. Only a fraction of what you give goes to the needy cause.
  2. In many cases, the charity model causes more harm than good. Foreign aid to places like Africa usually comes with caveats. The expectations on behalf of the giver deprive the recipient of truly deciding the direction of need. It continues a historic power imbalance. By maintaining dependence it prevent true progress (2, 3). This dependency and strings attached approach is also present in domestic charities. Gifts to the homeless are often tied to religions. Medical research charities have a point to push and a public to please. If I’m giving my hard earned, I don’t want it attached to someone else’s agenda.
  3. A lot of charity work does not address the underlying issues. I spend a lot of time working with people from downtrodden and despairing walks of life. I work with the homeless, addicts, abused and dying. Giving £5 in the street to a homeless person does nothing to lift them out of their situation, it just assuages your own guilt. The charities offer sticking plasters for wider problems, hiding them from society so that we don’t recognise them. Societies problems become the charities problem.

I find myself wondering if these are all ways I deflect and manage my own guilt.  I am buying from and giving more to local independent charity shops recently. Peer to peer charities would seem to offer a good route through problem two and three (although problem one remains). They help communities find their own directions to overcome problems. Wikipedia’s P2P charity page suggests there are 14 operating, although only Kiva and Global Giving I’ve heard of (4). I’ve also been looking at Credit Unions, following the logical track that they, like P2P charities, encourage responsible financial decisions and support independent choice. Credit Unions are also local, and by ‘saving’ with them, you’re offering your pool of cash as a resource to those locally who need it (5). Given most banks are currently offering crap interest rates anyway, what’s to lose?

I’m not sure I’ll ever be as good as MrsShrink, who supports about five different charities each month and always buys a Big Issue if she sees a seller. Kiva and my local Credit Union perhaps offer a route for me to get better. A new personal target for the next year.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

P.S. Since setting up an email link I’ve started to receive offers of guest posts. I’m flattered, but sadly can’t accept. This blog is a window into my own internal mono/dialogue, nothing more. 

Other News

And finally, on Brexit, here’s a great summary of Why (17).

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.youtube.com/watch?v=3m3-lMdIlJw
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2014/jul/22/africa-rescue-aid-stealing-resources
  3. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/05/africa-doesn-t-need-charity-it-needs-good-leadership/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Peer-to-peer_charities
  5. https://www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk/about-credit-unions/
  6. https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2019/08/nationwide-s-flexplus-packaged-account-is-changing—is-it-still/
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/sep/07/why-uk-savings-rates-may-be-heading-for-zero-what-to-do
  8. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/saving/article-7400089/Savers-warned-against-locking-money-away-easy-access-accounts-outshine-fixed-deals.html
  9. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/investing/article-7436487/Protect-savings-Corbyn-chaos-Brexit-worldwide-downturn.html
  10. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49543575
  11. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-7411339/Homebuyers-face-negative-equity-no-deal-Brexit-hits.html
  12. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49606757
  13. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/aug/28/recession-looms-for-brexit-britain-two-experts-on-the-economic-outlook
  14. https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2019/09/151157-fastest-startup-to-ever-hit-4-million-crowdfunding-on-crowdcube-curve-kills-it-now-at-5-5-million/
  15. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/ppi-claims-deadline-industry
  16. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-right-buy-scheme-houses-landlords-tenants-john-mcdonnell-corbyn-a9088211.html
  17. https://www.quora.com/Why-are-Remainers-so-convinced-that-staying-in-the-European-Union-is-what-is-best-for-the-UK/answer/Barry-McGuinness-1?ch=1&share=a9239dc8&srid=T9uP&fbclid=IwAR2HR7LrNKtFPm-OsAkzUrz8IfDMK-Z3hdfkHhMNNaZi5xKJZ4C3LgOHSPc
  18. http://archive.is/eTkMs
  19. https://amp.theatlantic.com/amp/article/596728/
  20. https://monevator.com/should-you-consolidate-old-pension-plans/
  21. https://monevator.com/find-the-best-online-broker/
  22. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/08/the-ultimate-value-investing-checklist.html/
  23. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/09/selling-sse-a-defensive-utility-stock.html/
  24. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/08/28/the-beauty-of-minimalism/
  25. https://earlyretirementnow.com/2019/08/29/you-are-a-pension-fund-of-one-swr-series-part-32/
  26. https://cashflowcop.com/financial-grit-to-retire-early/
  27. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/09/vanguard-lifestrategy-portfolio-sale.html
  28. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/08/itm-power-portfolio-addition.html
  29. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/09/mid-wynd-trust-full-year-results.html
  30. https://firevlondon.com/2019/08/29/the-tools-i-use-to-track-my-money-vs-the-tools-i-want/
  31. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2019/09/02/august-2019/
  32. https://drfire.co.uk/august-2019-report/
  33. https://drfire.co.uk/is-a-phd-compatible-with-financial-independence-part-2/
  34. https://ditchthecave.com/living-before-dying/
  35. https://thesavingninja.com/savings-report-13/
  36. https://awaytoless.com/monthly-spending-august-2019/
  37. http://www.thefrugalcottage.com/dividend-income-august-2019/
  38. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/09/02/month-end-august-2019/
  39. http://eaglesfeartoperch.blogspot.com/2019/08/sipp-performance-comparison.html
  40. https://asimplelifewithsam.com/2019/08/23/stretching-the-food-budget/
  41. https://thefifox.wordpress.com/2019/09/06/heating-your-home-what-thermostat-temperature-is-best/
  42. https://thefifox.wordpress.com/2019/08/27/how-we-got-married-on-a-1000-budget/
  43. https://indeedably.com/earn-to-love/
  44. https://indeedably.com/falsity/
  45. https://twothirstygardeners.co.uk/2019/08/5-best-home-grown-herbal-teas-mint-lemon-verbena-sage-basil-rosemary/
  46. https://sharpenyourspades.com/2019/09/01/allotment-jobs-for-september/
  47. https://agentsoffield.com/2019/09/01/late-summer-in-the-kitchen-garden/

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/

Q2 2019 – Green Credentials

Quarterly return posts supplement my monthly Financial Dashboard, covering investments in detail and looking at my yearly targets. Here I track purchases and sales, document progress against my (in progress) investment strategy, and discuss re-balancing and changes over time.

Q2 Returns:

Q2 Net Worth

  • Cash Savings Accounts £3200 (+£400)
  • Investments £1550 (+£1000)
  • Property £33,300 (-£1000)
  • Cars £3000

My net worth now sits at £~35,400, an increase of £2.2k over the past three months, which is a little less impressive than the previous quarter. This makes my rolling twelve month increase £14,900. Cannot complain.

Yearly Targets:

Goal 1: Build an emergency fund

My first 2019 goal was to build an emergency fund, as per the r/UKpersonalfinance flow chart (1). My goal emergency fund is three months total household expenses (£6k) in my name, plus a further three months (£6k) held jointly. I now currently hold £2650 in my name, and £300 held jointly. Some way to go.

My Santander 5% saver matured, so those funds were moved into a new high interest Nationwide current account. I used the excellent Bank Account Savings website plus Money Saving Expert to select another regular saver, opening a joint current account with First Direct for their switching bonus and then a linked 5% savings account (2, 3). I’ve also started squirreling cash into a Starling pot. The intention is to have liquid savings spread across three or four independent banks, with different card providers (MasterCard vs Visa). Protection against business and liquidity risk.

Goal 2: Pay off short-term debts

Short-Term Debt Q2

This has been the area of greatest progress. At the start of 2019 my short terms debts stood at £1.25k to family and £2.6k on 0% interest credit cards, then £250 and £2k respectively at the end of Q1. Those figures are now £0 and £650, and the credit card should be cleared this month. This will leave me free of unsecured debt for the first time in (I think) four years. Once the debt is clear, my money is free to be channelled into…

Goal 3: Save 25% of my earnings

Savings Rate Q2

I calculate my savings rate using this formula:

Savings rate as % = ((Income – spend) + Cash savings + Investments + Pension contributions) / (Income + Pension contributions)

My current mean savings rate for 2019 is 18.4%, short of my goal. I had a March outlier thanks to a tax refund, and in May my effective savings rate was close to zero due to work-related bills (exams, course fees etc). Worth noting in the NHS it’s expected you pay for your exams, courses and training yourself. You can claim it back through tax, but only certain elements. The rest you take on the chin.

Goal 4: Live more sustainably

I’ve been pretty crap at keeping track of what we’re using from the garden rather than purchasing. With summer in full swing we’re getting at least two dinners a week just from home-grown produce. We’ve also made lots of little changes around the house to move away from plastic. These have included:

  • Switching toilet roll

We looked into the brand ‘Who Gives A Crap’, but I was pretty pissed off to find out all their recycled/ bamboo eco loo-roll comes on a slow ship from China (4). Not exactly sustainable. Instead we used The Ethical Consumer, an amazing website that ranks consumer products by multiple ethical/ sustainable/ fairtrade measures, to find Ecoleaf by Suma (5). Suma are a co-operative in the UK who have been producing sustainable, fairtrade products since the 80s.

  • Shampoo bars

Again we tried to use The Ethical Consumer. We actually found the Lush ones are pretty good, and despite costing £8.50/each, they seem to last a couple of months (6).

  • Washing powder ball

The Ecozone Eco-balls we bought are supposed to last 1000 washes (7). A recent change, so we’ll wait to reserve judgement.

  • Switching cleaning products to Method

Nice and easy as they’re stocked in mainstream supermarkets.

There’s loads of guides and blogs out there with tips on how to live with less plastic. I’d recommend starting off with the 100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life (8).

Goal 5: Commence investing

I’ve not been very disciplined investing this quarter. In April I topped up my existing holding, but in May I held cash back to open a crowdfunding investment (still pending). My cash savings are calculated towards my Personal Allowance, whilst my investments are held in my Vanguard ISA. I have managed to get my investment portfolio spreadsheet at a stage I’m happy with (for now), so here’s a few example graphs:

Tax Efficiency Q2

Region Allocation Q2Country Allocation

Because I’m contrary, I’ve decided to actually try to calculate my worldwide exposure on a country by country basis. I currently just hold Vanguards Developed World Ex-UK Fund. I’m far more exposed to the US than I’d like, and so I’ll be opening some new holdings to diversify over the next two quarters.

Until next time,

The Shrink

References:

  1. https://www.reddit.com/r/UKPersonalFinance/
  2. https://bankaccountsavings.co.uk/
  3. https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/savings/savings-accounts-best-interest/
  4. https://myplasticfreelife.com/2017/09/who-gives-a-crap-recycled-or-bamboo-toilet-paper-without-plastic/
  5. https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/home-garden/shopping-guide/toilet-paper
  6. https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/christmasgifts/fashion-beauty/shampoo-hair-soap-plastic-free-green-beauty-environmentally-friendly-a8505026.html
  7. https://www.ethicalsuperstore.com/products/ecozone/eco-balls/
  8. https://myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide/

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/