21 Jan 2012, 11:05am
personal finance:
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  • An Interesting Taxonomy of Personal Finance approaches from Moneysaving Challenge

    I’d never really taken the time out to analyse the different approaches to improving your financial situation, but MoneySaving Challenge did some of the the legwork came up with this intriguing summary

    UK Personal Finance Blogosphere

    UK Personal Finance Blogosphere, Source: www.moneysavingchallenge.com

    It’s reasonably obvious that frugality is at the opposite pole to consumerism, and indeed money management is also an antidote to consumerism. It did make me wonder, however, wherther frugality is a hazard to growing wealth. Although it’s a small sample, it indicates that British personal finance is sparser on the growing wealth axis than the American PF scene. Although the American Dream has taken a serious hit over the last few years, perhaps the myth of continuous progress is helping people in the States feel more chipper about their plight.

    Some of the same optimism, though in a more understated British way, is displayed by Monevator who is still upbeat by the end of Gruel Britannia, leading one commenter to observe he may “see sunrise as a bullish indicator“.

    Perhaps that’s where I’m going wrong…  There is also the implication that frugality is not necessarily the best way to growing wealth, and this is another notable difference with US perspectives, there tends to be a stronger bias to increasing your income rather than cutting spending. This wasn’t my experience; I only started to build significant financial assets after taking an axe to spending. For most of my working life I was building non-financial assets, in particular buying out my mortgage. Cost control worked for me.

    I also observed an interesting gender distribution on the plot, let’s just say that the distribution does not appear to be gender-neutral to me. And that’s all I’m going to say on that front, but it is interesting what areas are focused on by the ladies and the guys 😉 For the sake of clarity, I don’t think this is because MSC imposed this distribution, I’ve observed it in the PF blogosphere as a whole.

     

     

    13 Apr 2010, 8:01pm
    living intentionally:
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  • The Importance of Setting Goals


    Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
    Every so often I’d come across a book like Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and they would go on about setting direction. I hated to-do lists, and here was someone advocating creating the mother of all to-do lists. So I’d skip on to the next chapter, move along, nothing interesting to see here.

    It hit me, when I started looking at how I could retire early, that these self-help guys were right. I had a goal, though I hadn’t set it in a formal way. Now that I had a map, I could start to make things happen in a coherent way.

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    11 Apr 2010, 11:22pm
    simple living:
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  • How I plan to retire early

    Firstly, retirement means an end to steady paid employment to me. It doesn’t necessary mean an end to earning money. Early retirees need to make this call. If retirement means your pension arrangements will be your only means of support you will need a much larger pension pot.

    It’s wage slavery I want shot of. I also want my time back; my current job is reasonably well paid so if I’m going to be working for the Man I may as well stay put. But I am looking at retiring about 10 years early relative to the normal retirement age for my job.

    The keys to successful early retirement are

    • clear debts
    • reduce outgoings
    • save more
    • develop alternative income streams

    I owe nobody  – Debt Free and Mortgage-Free

    I didn’t achieve this by winning the lottery. It’s taken me two thirds of my working life and it was done the boring way; I spent less than I earned and I paid my mortgage in 18 years, by overpaying for a few years. There are no short cuts; I had fewer holidays than most and stayed closer to home – while colleagues were jetting off to Egypt or Australia I stayed in the UK or Europe with the odd foray to the States.

    Unlike many personal finance bloggers who became inspired to master their finances after building up frightful debts, I never ran up traumatic debt and juggled credit cards. I credit my parents for that, they’d even put sixpences into a tin towards the bill when they used the phone when I was a kid.

    Clearing mortgage debt is liberating – it means I can focus my efforts on saving over 70% of my take-home pay. By saving half of it in my company pension additional voluntary contributions (AVCs) I keep Gordon Brown’s grubby mitts off it.

    Reduce outgoings

    I live on considerably less than the take-home of someone on Britain’s minimum wage last year (full-time UK NMW is about 12k gross or 10k net). That’s not as hard as it sounds for me since I have no mortgage or rent outgoings. It does mean no foreign holidays and low-cost staycations, which is hard when working the 9-5 life. It was particularly hard last year, what with some of the nutty practices at work after some dreadful business results meant HR are trying to stress people to leave by abusing the performance management process to avoid paying redundancy money.

    There’s no way round it, not getting a decent break is the grimmest part of living frugally but working in a stressful environment. It brings it home just how much holidays were as much a respite from work as a positive acquisition of new experiences. However, I figure a year or two of that is worth it to win a permanent holiday for the rest of my life!

    Reducing my outgoings also gives me a dry run on what it would be like on a lower income – the fact that I can do it gives me good confidence in my retirement calulations. I’d recommend it to anybody thinking of retiring early – live on what you plan to retire on and save the rest. That way you test the theory while you can still back off and work for a bit longer if you got the estimates wrong.

    Save hard

    If you can save 50% of your take-home then for every year you work you can take a year off. It’s obvious when you think about it, the half you don’t use this year pays for your next year.  I thank Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme for bringing it to my attention in his blog post.

    Find alternative income streams

    I have to admit that I am not really doing that well at this. Most of these need creativity, such as writing, recording, photography, and this is at a low ebb while living frugally while tolerating a poor work environment. I’ve got some ideas and am improving my writing.

    And of course I am investing, both in shares ISAs and in pension AVCs, and my ISA and company sharesave holdings are paying dividend incomes. But the stock of capital is pretty low so that is not a large alternative income. And realistically, these alternative income streams are dwarfed by my employment income. At times I am in danger of getting sucked into the one more year before comfort trap that ERE highlights.

     
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