12 Apr 2010, 6:06am



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    Journal of a 50-something professional looking to get out of the rat race early and start living simply, with intent.

    Simplicity because it is a way to win freedom, to get one’s time back, to live intentionally.

    To live with intent – Henry Thoreau had it about right

    “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately
    I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life
    to put to rout all that was not life,
    and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.”

    It’s not enough to drift along with life, and once I came to that conclusion,  things had to change. I have been working since 1983, and of late I grow tired of the world of professional work. Partly this is from changes in me, money becomes less of a priority as I get older. Much is due to the toxic changes in employment caused by globalisation.

    The modern white-collar workplace is more of a rat race, than the nurturing cameraderie I experienced in my early days in research work. I despise things like ‘performance management’ and the other things used by weak leaders to try and organise people. Of course other things changed too. My employer’s business case is weaker than it was when I started, as its service becomes more generic and commoditised.

    Personal Finance – I want to craft a richer life. and to do that I have to master the essentials of personal finance, rather than subsist in employment. My younger self chose his career well, but I now want to cut it short by about fifteen years. I have seen too many days from inside office windows, I want to hear the birds, live more simply and frugally and drink in the days, rather than sleepwalk my way through them

    Why Suffolk. Well, I live here, which is a good start, but I have failed to make full use of its understated prettiness over the last twenty years. The weather is dry, and the coast echoes to the sound of birds under the open skies. And I know people here, after living and working here since moving from London where I grew up. I want to appreciate the county more – two decades of working have dulled my vision, and I realise I have not “lived here deeply, ready to suck out the marrow of life.” That just will not do.

    Why the blog? I like writing, and expect to do more after finishing work. The trend to simplicity looks like becoming part of the zeitgeist.

    Caveat lector

    This is my opinion. It’s worth what you paid for it 🙂 Everybody’s financial situation is different, what’s right for me isn’t necessarily right for you. I might even get something wrong at times. I do try and point to sources, but if you need UK financial advice then you should either

    • preferably take the time out to understand what you are doing and do your own research
    • or if you can’t be bothered then consider paying for an independent financial adviser, on a fee, not commission basis. Moneysavingexpert’s guide to how to choose and pay an IFA is excellent. The UK government’s  FSA has advice available, and this cautionary tale from Monevator is worth reading 🙂

    […] at turning points in the year it is good to lift my eyes from the fog of war, and remind myself why I am doing this. I have already missed the boat according to the criteria here (I have been working for more than […]

    Greetings Ermine,

    Web developer here from Ireland who really enjoys reading your blog posts. I’ve been having trouble keeping track of which tab it’s open in though, because you don’t have a favicon enabled. So I’ve been rather cheeky and made you one: http://lunamatic.net/temp/favicon.ico
    Here is a preview of how it would look:

    Yours to use or discard at your leisure!


    Thanks! beady-eyed ermine added πŸ™‚

    Smashing! πŸ˜€

    Hi there

    I just wanted to let you know that your blog has been included in the 2012 UK Personal Finance Blogosphere infographic on this page:


    Best wishes


    Hi, over the past week or so, I’ve read through all your posts from the beginning to today. I appreciate all the insight, it’s been educating from both the personal finance aspect and a more general UK view. A lot of people have a lot to learn from your experience. Some hopefully will. Thanks and good luck in your quest for FI.

    Hi sorry to post here, could not find a email address for you and got to shoot to work,

    You posted ,…. At Monevoter site,
    .which also help those for whome the loss of child tax credit would be an issue. My employer runs an employee share purchase scheme, where you buy shares up to a value of Β£125 p.c.m. from pre-tax income. You have to hold the shares for 5 years, but buying them at a 41% discount means you can eat a lot of downside. There is apparently a childcare vouchers scheme which also comes from pretax income.

    I’m just asking would this work for working tax crts ? In order to lower the wage, and also would a sipp work ?

    In case hrmc is not confirming anything,

    @Henrik, you’re welcome, glad you liked some of it!

    @Mike A SIPP (and alternative methods of pension contribs such as AVCs and added years) does work to depress your income so you could take that to WTC levels, and has been recommended in several newspaper articles as the obvious win to lose some income against the CTC bar on HR taxpayers, by stopping yout pay drifting into the HRT band. I did read about a single HRT payer who managed to use pension contributions to drop his income to WTC levels, but that’s quite hair-shirt for me. Though I probably live on less than NMW that’s because I am saving post-tax which means I have to earn at least an ISA’s worth + other savings over my running costs. If you can do it, good luck to you!

    ESIP also comes from pretax income, and worked to lower my tax band from HRT for a little while a few years back. You also get the dividends even through the embargo period.

    Well that’s good news I’m not near the HRT at all, I’m just over the WTC level and that’s the main reason I’m looking to put it down into the wtc zone, would a quick 4k lump sum within the current tax year be ok ? For this 2011 / 2012 year,. Or is there a some rules cut off date? Via sipp by then that’s trapped untill 55age , I know it’s a siPp but would a ISA work the same ? at least I could get to the funds quicker, and put in on my child’s name,

    It’s either this or pay it back, πŸ™

    @Mike, no, an ISA isn’t the same. else that would be the easiest trick in the book. Heck, I might even be eligible if that worked πŸ˜‰

    I’m not a benefits expert because it’s over three decades since I interacted with the DHSS. You’re probably better off with the Benefits and Tax Credits board of Martin Lewis’s site for the current lowdown, and they are generally a friendly bunch.

    Hi there
    What’s your name? I’m John. I’m 48, married with 3 kids and I live in Sydney Australia. I’ve done 20 years in IT with 8 years as a partner in a small consultancy. In 2003 I ‘spat the dummy’, gave my half of the business to my partner, and bought a business -a couple of shoe shops. A fool and his money… After 8 years I have grown weary of serving the public in my own business. The quiet months are good for reading but otherwise it feels like death. I have lost motivation and was on the verge of starting a course of antidepressants. I am strangled by debt (probably to a lesser degree than many) while my business suffers financially from the Internet, inflated prices due to monopoly arrangements with our supplier, and my own ennui.

    Last year I closed one of our stores and put a manager in the other one . I intend to free myself up to do ‘other things’ like find something more useful to do (we are men of action – Shakespeare) and preferably meaningful. I have even tried to get back into IT. But this has resulted in some pretty overwhelming feelings of anxiety – and sense of deja vu.

    I feel like I have no direction. I can’t honestly tell you what I’d like to do next . I have spent my working life chasing the bucks and despite considering myself to be a thoughtful sensitive sort of guy, I feel like I’ve ‘given it all away’ whatever that is.

    Anyway I really appreciate your efforts here. There is so much that resonates for me. I look forward to reading more! Best regards John

    Hi John,

    Sorry, missed this one earlier somehow! 20 years is too long in IT.

    Something that seems apparent from many of the comments here and with my own situation is that after two,three decades of working the spirit seeks freedom, to soar higher and wider than the grind of workign for a living.

    M Scott Peck, in his book The Road Not Travelled, gave the perspective that somethimes these crises are needed because we deny ourselves the stillness to reflect on who we are, what we wanted and where we are going. Perhaps you are seeking the stillness, and in it to find the signal. Sometimes it is necessary to experience the losses first.

    Hope that you find a new thread to inspire and lend a hand in the maelstrom…

    Hi there

    Like your blog and came through monevator. Especially like the recent post on passive investing portfolio’s. ( still trying to comprehend it fully) . Moved to Uk from india (which wasnt sophisticated in investing) about 12 years back and took me the first few years getting clued in and ended up wasting money chasing active funds which made the newspaper finance sections . Bit more seasoned now and taking charge of my finance goals etc.
    Perhaps I am equally concerned about medium to long term drop in western world , state of education system (loved the bit around hurting the sensibilities of the dim wits ), people still not clued in on the big picture and the changing world and the fact that retirement is a state which has some future meaning for me now.
    Moved all my ISA’s and pensions into passive low cost and playing around with the right asset mix .( still not there and figuring out commodities exposure etc) . Taking my first foray into BTL leveraging existing equity y as it was always on my mind that I am sitting on a dead investment with hardly any capital growth in near future ( perhaps I read rich dad poor dad too many times).

    Keep up the work

    Just noticed an addition to the blogroll; it even gives a comment when you hover over… very nice! Thanks for that, it’s much appreciated.


    I’d like to post you my new investing book called “Monkey with a Pin”. Can you let me have your contact details?

    Kind regards

    PS. If you want to know more about it, listen to MoneyBox today with Paul Lewis.


    Thanks for the read, I’ve outline my thoughts here Definitely recommended, I’m not sure I agreed with all you said, but it made me think, and indeed explaned some things in ways I found easier to understand.

    […] through the posts of Simple Living in Suffolk, Mr Money Mustache or Early Retirement Extreme and you will notice a common […]

    Dear Ermine,

    I’ve read about 10% of your bloggings and can’t wait to read the rest. I type direct from “The Firm” and already you’ve opened my eyes to some mistakes I’ve made with Sharematch and Sharesave, will rectify that for future. Needless to say I’m maxing out on contributions along with the max into the FSPS. I plan to exit at 55 (will push for voluntary redundancy at 52-ish, fingers crossed). That’s another 11years and 11months max. I’d have got less for armed robbery?! I’m a worker drone, so it won’t be a huge pension, but I can manage/don’care so long as I can start living. I fully subscribe to saving for freedom.

    Dearest Ermine,
    Many thanks for the many hours of reading I’ve enjoyed whilst pretending to work for ‘The Firm’. In the interest of making sure I can initiate this charade as soon as you add a new post would you consider adding an RSS feed to the blog?
    Best wishes

    @Branoc there should already be one at
    http://feeds.feedburner.com/SimpleLivingInSuffolk, and there are rss feeds I presume at http://simple-living-in-suffolk.co.uk/feed/rss/

    but feedburner seems to be the preferred way? I’m happy to be enlightened if that isn’t working right, and/or something wants tweaking but seems to work for a fair number of subscribers πŸ˜‰

    @Starla note there seem to be two models to Sharesave, the one The Firm operated for most of the tie I was there where you can drop them, and the one where you commit each slug and while you can drop the spend you can reassign it to a better scheme. Nevertheless, the big mistake most employees make with Sharesave is not be in it! That’s mad IMO!

    […] place. Yet through his own experiences of trying to enjoy a more simple, conscious and ultimately more fulfilling existence, Ermine provides us with a fascinating microcosm of financial-lifestyle issues which actually […]

    Ermine thanks for the kind words re my blog. am very new to this and am just getting started.

    I like your blog and am now a regular reader. I would be interested in linking you on my blog roll – would that be ok?

    1 Sep 2013, 5:19pm
    by Christina


    I’ve just discovered your blog. I was beginning to think I was the only person in the Ipswich area with a passionate wish to live simply and in tune with nature. I don’t understand people’s obsession with acquiring ‘stuff’ and was beginning to think maybe I was an alien, so it’s wonderful to have discovered your blog and to see the Thoreau quote – he was so wise. I’m looking forward to reading your blog. Thank you!

    1 Jan 2014, 7:43pm
    by robhwales


    Couldnt find an email address on the site (don’t blame you if there isn’t one but I’m really looking forward to your comments on this latest misguided drivel on the Guardian


    Happy New Year, and please keep up the good work

    Thank you Ermine, I’ve very much enjoyed reading your posts. A few times you have touched on your corporate burn out and your several month recovery after your retirement. It would be wonderful to hear your words of wisdom on both these topics, especially your (on going?) recovery. I’m 46, the last few years have been challenging at work, in fact a better word might be damaging. How are you coming along?

    Thanks again,


    Just discovered you site , 52 yrs old and living in glorious Herefordshire and can associate with the above posts although I do not come from a professional background (31yrs self employed ) I to would like to live life to the full and enjoy my family without the millstone , keep up the good work

    Hi Ermine,

    Really enjoy your blog and am working on my own exit strategy. Having on paper achieved FI I just need to reallocate some assets (am overseas so property sale is a big one)before finishing work late summer or Autumn 2015.

    Anyway I particular enjoy the non-financial insights you sometimes provide. Your philosophy in effect. The Escape Artist blog has the following entry


    I’m at level two and as in some of the comments find myself wondering about level 1.

    How did you find the transition and did you make it before or after FI? That is would you agree that the order of levels 1 and 2 could be reversed for some people.

    @Sean I probably made the transition before, in terms to driving down spending though I wouldn’t claim to be worthy of riding the same train as TEA’s examples πŸ˜‰

    It certainly can be reversed – indeed that reversal is some of the mechanics of how you achieve FI at a younger age than normal. Take a look at MMM’s maths and his example it is almost a prerequisite to drive down your spending greatly. You need to break the chain between spending and desire – in the end a lot of what makes life worth living needs you to have more time, not more money, if you are lucky enough to be in a First World country.

    @ Ermine Thanks for taking the time to respond. I am fortunate in that I will retire this year just before 50. In general terms $$$ will not be an issue, at least in theory but “desire” is always looming in the background. Thankfully I have significant flexibility in my budget projections so I am reasonably confident that all will be okay.

    I have found myself becoming more introspective in the last year since I started reading your blog? Certainly a time of deciding what was important in life A mid-life crisis perhaps-mine that is, not yours πŸ™‚

    If you have any further musings on the emotional transition and decision making (both before FI and since retirement) rather than pure financial decision making I would love to read them.

    Perhaps in another life the Ermine was – to quote TEA…
    “the old bloke out of Kung Fu who trained grasshopper”

    11 Feb 2015, 1:15pm
    by robhwales


    Hi Thought you’d enjoy this article – They’re coming!



    I enjoyed your blog post about Financial Advice. I work at VouchedFor (which is how I came to see it) and was pleased you like us. In this About page you mention the Money Saving Expert guide but it looks like it has moved from the page you link to, I think this is the new version of the one you mention: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/savings/best-financial-advisers#find

    Thanks and hope you get the advice you (reluctantly) require!

    @Barney – thanks – MSE link corrected. I wish they wouldn’t keep on moving things that, or at least provide redirects.

    the financial advice post was this one

    […] This shouty anti-advertising belter was suggested by a reader, thereby expanding The Escape Artist’s musical repertoire.Β  So thank you to Underscored! RATM highlight the benefits of thinking for ourselves and living intentionally. […]

    I’ve tried the Tip The Web thing a couple of times in the last 6 months with no joy. When going to sign in with a Google account I’m greeted by a blank page. Is it working for any other form of sign in? I know it’s Beta and I really like the idea but it’s shame they haven’t got it sorted. I shall end up having to leave a package under a bench in Christchurch Park next time I’m passing πŸ˜‰

    Sorry you’re having trouble with that! I will revisit Paypal, last time I looked at the the Ts and Cs I had to actually deliver a product or service contingent on a donation. Mind you, the dead-letter box in Christchurch Park has a lovely analogue retro Cold War Modern character to it!

    […] Simple Living in Suffolk – breaking free of the rat race and living intentionally […]


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