Introduction to.. Wealth

Well, after being paid the ultimate compliment this week – Mrs Just About Life read the blog (I didn’t ask her to) and sent me an unexpected and wonderful message at work to say how much she loved it – I’m stoked and back as promised with the next of the “mini-series” of articles on the three main themes of this blog.

“Money can’t buy me love” sang the Beatles (they obviously never played Amsterdam). It can buy you all sorts of crap though, or it could be used to get you out of your boring job earlier than expected.

Yep, today we’re talking about a big, ugly subject: Wealth.

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Since Mrs JAL liked the 2-step plan from the Introduction to.. Health so much, I’m going to repeat the trick for Wealth, here it comes.

Wealth – the 2-step plan

  1.  Spend less than you earn
  2.  Invest the rest (wisely)

 

Got that? Sounds simple doesn’t it? And that’s because it is.

If you follow Step 1 and Spend less than you earn, then you will have some left every month.

Which means you can get stuck in to Step 2 and Invest the rest (wisely, of course).

So what does that mean? As with last time, let’s now go into a bit of detail.

 

1. Spend less than you earnscales

Exactly what it says. Every time you get paid, that’s all your money until the next time you get paid. Don’t spend it all. Simple.

 

But plenty of people don’t do this. Many people just spend without really thinking about it. Some months they get lucky and might not spend what they’ve earned, and some months they definitely do spend more. Over the months and years, things might even just about balance out, but one thing is for sure – those people won’t be getting rich any time soon. (Some people even consistently spend more than they earn, and get into debt. This is a horrible place to be, and something I might look at in a future post.)

 

So, what can you do to consistently achieve this goal of spending less than you earn? I’m glad you asked. For a start, you could consider making a household budgetI know, I know.. But stay with me! The JAL family started doing this last November, and since then we feel a lot happier, far more in control, and – dare I say it – it’s actually fun and enjoyable to be prepared, to really think about your spending, and to keep track of what’s going on. Not to mention the tremendous feeling at the end of every month when we review and realise we’ve hit our targets again, bringing us one step closer to our goal of financial independence. Yep, budgeting can give you the laser focus that can really ramp up your efforts and get you to financial independence much quicker.

More on budgets in an article soon, because they’re really important! See? I put it in bold and with an exclamation mark to prove just how important they are. But for now you can stop sweating, that’s all on budgets. For now.

 

Next, you have to change attitudes. Again, in bold.  Because attitude is everything. Our society seems to have developed this “I deserve it” mentality – “Hey you! Yes, you there in the smart suit! You’re working hard every day, so you deserve those shoes, that new leather-trimmed executive car, AND that holiday to Barbados!”

And you probably do deserve those things! If that’s what you really want..

But looking at this another way – you buy the shoes, the car, and the holiday now, and you’re effectively robbing your future self. And your future self might not be happy about that. So, how’s about not blowing every last penny every month, and when you’re 60* you’ll be able to stop work, go to Barbados for 2 years if you want, and wear new shoes every night. (Ok, maybe not, but hopefully you get my point. And anyway, by the time you get to 60 I reckon you’ll realise that the shoes don’t make you that happy anyway, and that there’s a lot to be said for walking around barefoot – especially on the beaches of Barbados)

 

 


2. Invest the rest (wisely)money_increase

Ok, so you’ve made a budget (or maybe you haven’t… yet) and you’ve got that “bit” of money left over every month, remember? Well, I guess you have several options for what to do with it. For example, you could:

 

  1. Go shopping and blow it all on designer gear and expensive coffees, or
  2. Buy a new flat/round/curvy/voluptuous/whatever television, or
  3. Invest it (in about a million different ways)

 

Now, I know that plenty of people will see options 1 and 2 as infinitely more exciting than option 3. But I can tell you that if you choose one of the first two options, you won’t be financially independent any time soon. Like, not in the next 40 years. If you take the 3rd option – and you regularly take the 3rd option (as in “EVERY month” regular) – then you WILL GET RICH. You will get rich slowly, but you WILL GET RICHRemember – it’s all about attitudes. Change your attitude, change your life.

 

A reminder here that none of this is financial advice – and the usual disclaimers apply – but as an example of what you could do with your leftover dosh each month, you could probably do worse than opening a stocks and shares ISA with an online platform (investing through an ISA takes advantage of some tax benefits) and setting up a monthly direct debit to invest a regular sum into a low-cost index tracker fund. Let this direct debit carry on automatically and forget about it.

 

 

Pay it forward

You could even really commit to this and pay yourself first. Set up your direct debit into your investment account for the next day after your monthly pay day. This way you always get paid. Hopefully, your investments will – over time – just grow and grow, until one day you can just not go into the office any more. Wahey! (How to work out when this day might come? Check back for future articles, I’ve got some ideas on this one and maybe even some useful tools for you!)
Control yourselfkeys

The most important thing we’re talking about here is taking control. By budgeting, and socking some dosh away on a regular basis, you’re taking control. You can’t control the stock market, or the housing market, or the job market, or any other market for that matter.. But you CAN control how much YOU SPEND and therefore how much YOU SAVE. And the fact is that people who do this have a much, much, much better chance of achieving their financial goals.

What the Dickens?


So, as a final note then, how does wealth relate to happiness? This is obviously a subject for much debate – money is an extremely emotive subject, and I look forward to writing plenty more about this. But since we’re looking for simple, straight-talking views, look no further than the advice of Charles Dickens, who sent this message to the Victorians of 19th century England via the character Wilkins Micawber** in “David Copperfield“:

Annual income twenty pounds,

Annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six,

Result happiness.

 

Annual income twenty pounds,

Annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six,

Result misery.

 

That sounds a lot like “Spend Less Than You Earn” to me…

Cheers Wilko me ole mucker, sound advice!

 

Until next time – pay yourself first!

JAL

 

 

 

 

 

* Obviously if you’re aged 58 and reading this, this may not quite be true

 

** Interesting “back story” on the character of Wilkins Micawber, from Wikipedia, he was:

..modelled on Dickens’s own father, John Dickens, who like Micawber was incarcerated in debtors’ prison (the King’s Bench Prison) after failing to meet his creditors’ demands.

..(later) Micawber is hired as a clerk by the scheming Uriah Heep, who assumes wrongly that Micawber’s debts arise from dishonesty. But working for Heep allows Micawber to expose his boss as a forger and a cheat. To start anew, Micawber and his family emigrate to Australia with Daniel Peggotty and Little Em’ly, where Micawber becomes manager of the Port Middlebay Bank and a successful government magistrate.
 

DISCLAIMER

I am not a financial expert. I do not work in the financial industry. Nothing on this blog is intended or can be considered to be financial advice, and I cannot accept responsibility for any of your actions. Always do your own research, or seek the help of a professional, and make your own decisions. I am merely expressing an opinion here, based on my own experience.

 

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Introduction to.. Health

Attention, lifer! Let’s get this thing started!

Ok, the initial introductions have been made, and as promised, today I’m going to start my “mini-series” of articles on the three main themes of this blog. We’re not messing around; today we’re going to get stuck into the big one – Health.

Use it or lose it!

It is the big one, which is why we’re covering it first. If you lose your health (I mean lose it big-time) then obviously you’re not going to be happy, and as for your wealth – you could have £400m in the bank, it ain’t going to be a whole lot of use to you. Ok, ok, it could buy you the best health provision available to man.. but wouldn’t you prefer to have to rely on healthcare as little as possible? Well your best (and cheapest) health insurance policy is to stay healthy. Simple, right? That’s what we’re trying to do here, remember – keep things simple.

Buy one, get 2 free

So here we have a radical simple 2 step plan to getting fit and staying fit.

But fitness isn’t all you’ll get – added bonuses of the plan are:

  1. Your wealth should (and almost definitely will) INCREASE
  2. Your happiness levels should (and almost definitely will) INCREASE

Whaaaaat? I thought we were only talking HEALTH today, not WEALTH and HAPPINESS too?

Well, yes, strictly speaking, we are only talking health. But as I make my way through life, I find that the 3 things are often more related than we can ever imagine. Which is partly why I went for the “just about life” name for the blog, because even if I was just writing about health, or personal finance.. I know I would ultimately end up talking about “more” than just that every time I sat down to write.

So, let’s get stuck in. I mentioned a simple 2 step plan. Are you ready?

Health – the 2-step plan

  1. Eat sensibly
  2. Do some exercise

I warned you it was radical.

And if you really really really can’t stick to step 1, then just make sure you do step 2.. and make sure you crank it up a bit. Reason for this get-out clause? Again, simple – if you’re burning more calories than you’re taking on, you’ll be losing weight. So even if you consume 4,000 calories a day, so long as you burn 4,000 you’ll not be putting on weight. More on this stuff in the future, no doubt.

However, assuming you can handle TWO steps to your radical plan for staying alive, let’s have a closer look at each of those steps.

1. Eat Sensibly

Just.. Be Honest

If you’re putting on weight, you should know about it without the need for a set of scales. Trousers feeling a little tighter? Chances are that they didn’t suddenly decide to shrink. Look in the mirror, and just be honest with yourself.

Especially as we get older (usually around mid-thirties onwards, so I’m told.. I’m just reaching that age now and preparing for it..) we can’t keep chugging back the beers and scoffing down the cake without repercussions.

There used to be a girl in an office I once worked in, and she was conscious of her weight. She’d constantly be telling her colleagues:

– “I just don’t understand it! I eat a small bowl of cereal for breakfast, a sub-250calorie sandwich for lunch and yet I just don’t lose any weight!”

Most of us who overheard this constant outcry could tell that it was the 10am chocolate bar, mid-afternoon cake, and the frequent take-away meals and boozy nights out that were quite possibly the cause. But she wasn’t being honest with herself, and so wasn’t therefore going to be able to fix the problem. Ever.

2. Do some exercise

And after that particular gold nugget, straight away I’d like to say this:

GYM memberships are NOT necessary to maintain a good level of health. Absolutely NOT necessary. At all.

If you’re the kind of person that can only get motivated in a “gym”, fine, go for it.

If you currently have – or have had – injuries, and you need to exercise on certain machines etc., fine, go for it.

For the rest of us – the vast majority of us – they are just not necessary. If you have a membership, go ahead and cancel it right now. You’ll probably be saving something like £600 a year – for most people that’s going to be akin to pumping an extra month of savings into your investments every year. Imagine that! Your savings account says you worked an month this year.. except you know that you worked the usual 47 weeks, same as last year. Over 20 years, you can expect that £600 a year to be worth something like £18000*. Again, for most people, what that really means is that you could give up this work thing at least a year or two ahead of your current target.

Another way

So now we’ve got no gym membership, what do we do? Here are a few ideas that are available to anyone and everyone:

– Home circuit workout (ZERO equipment required!)

– Running (outside! in the fresh air! for free!)

– Shadow (or bag) boxing (freak the neighbours out!)

I currently use those methods – and only those methods – to control my weight and muscle tone. And you too can achieve your goals, or just “maintain” your current condition (if you’re happy with it). More detail on the workouts to come in a future post.

Benefits with friends

So, what are the downsides to cutting the gym membership? Umm.. none for me. I dislike gyms!

Upsides?  Fresh air (instead of that lovely gym air..), nature, much less time required (no travelling, changing, parking..), running with a friend/relative/loved one/future loved one

If you’re used to only running on a treadmill (yuck!) and don’t go running outside much, do yourself a favour and go outside for a run today as soon as possible (i.e. NOW, or straight after work). Then when you get home, after you’ve done your stretches, come back to this blog and leave me a comment to say “thank-you”. I guarantee you will be wondering what the hell you were doing on the treadmill all that time.

(Bonus: If you’re in the UK, then you’ll have noticed that spring has well and truly sprung, so the feel-good factor of running outdoors will be ramped up even more!)

Just.. Get outta here

That’s it for today – so stop reading, lace up your runners and get out there! And don’t forget to check in next week for my Introduction to.. Wealth.

Until next time – be honest with yourself!

JAL

PS – If anyone’s interested in details on the circuit workouts, or any other aspect of what I’ve said, let me know and I’ll gladly put some info up on this blog sooner rather than later.

* somewhat conservatively assuming an average 4% investment increase each year

DISCLAIMER

I am not a medical expert. I do not work in the medical industry. Nothing on this blog is intended or can be considered medical advice, and I cannot accept responsibility for any of your actions. Do your research, make your own decisions, and if you have a medical concern then consult with an appropriately licensed and qualified physician or other health care worker. I am merely expressing an opinion here, based on my own experience.

 

The second date

Hi there, lifer!

So, the blog is finally up and running. You can expect “look and feel” changes over the next few weeks – I decided to just get the thing going before fixing on the style. That sort of stuff can be tweaked along the way, but if I wait until I’m completely happy with it before I start posting.. I know I’ll never actually start posting!

After the initial brief introduction last week, I thought I should expand slightly. Think of this as a second date – we met once and we were mysteriously drawn to each other, so we’re meeting up again. This time we’re that little bit more relaxed in each other’s company and can start to ask each other a few questions. I guess I’ll be doing most of the talking, so I’ve decided to start by answering the “Big 5”: Who? What? Why? Where? and When?

I know you’re shy and I’m doing most of the talking, but I may just ask you a couple of questions back, just to check you’re awake and I’m not boring you. Now, I’m a very patient and understanding sort of chap, and I’m fine with you not answering out loud – but if you are feeling brave, then by all means answer them in the comments form at the end of the post – it would be great to hear from you. Also, it goes without saying that if you’d like to ask me any more questions, fire away!

Right, that’s the handshake or single/double/triple cheek pecks out of the way and the maitre d’ has now shown us to our table – let’s get to know each other!

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1. Who.. are you?

Wow, that’s a big one to start with. Well, without getting too philosophical…

In some respects I’m probably a fairly “average” guy:

  • I’m in my mid-late thirties
  • I work for a living (currently)
  • I have a wife and a baby
  • We have a car
  • We live in a house, complete with many of the luxuries of modern western life (e.g. fridge freezer, central heating, washing machine, dishwasher, television.

In other respects though, the JAL family already does some things quite “differently” to many people we know:

  • We walk or ride bikes whenever practically possible (to the shop, to the doctors..). We only use the car for work and when it’s necessary for family leisure outings (our 10 month old can’t ride a bike yet, but he’s working on it)
  • We budget our household income and outgoings (and we run quite a tight ship!)
  • We don’t have gym memberships (but are both in decent shape, thanks very much)
  • We very rarely buy “new” things (this applies to our son too – he has mostly second hand clothes and toys, and he seems very happy)
  • We’ve paid off the mortgage on the aforementioned house

And we have one big goal that many people we know definitely don’t have, and that they find somewhat ambitious/crazy/unbelievable:

  • We intend to be financially independent by the time I am 40 (e.g. we don’t intend “working for the man” after that point – unless, of course, that we decide that “working for the man” is something we really really want to do at that point!)

Evidently we’ve got some way to go to the simple life, the self-sufficient life, the good life.. But we’ve started the journey, and – importantly – Team JAL is committed to it. Mr Inspiration himself Lao-tzu said:

The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step

Well, we took that first step last year. And then we took another step, and we kept on walking. Now it feels like we’re into a steady light jog.. (I could take this analogy quite far, but I’m not going to)

2. What.. kind of things will I be able to read about on justaboutlife?

As I alluded to in the initial blog post: healthwealth and happiness will be the loose subject headers.

So, amongst other things, there’ll no doubt be posts concerning  diet and exercise, personal finance, and various musings on that thing called happiness..

Over the next few weeks I intend to write one post on each of these things, covering my views on the basics. And once these extended introductions are finally over, we’ll start to get into detail.

– Question for you, dear reader: What would you like to read about here? Let me know in the comments!

3. Why.. are you doing this?

After umming and aahing for a while about starting this blog, one of the big reasons for doing it was something called “accountability“… Summarised, in plain English: “having someone to answer to“.

As I mentioned earlier, we are still a long way from zero-money-in-zero-money-out-eco-warriors at present, but we’ve made some initial steps towards a “better way”. Having the blog will help us to be honest with ourselves, whilst also communicating with others out there facing the same issues.

The other big motivation is that if our son is ever that way inclined, he may read some of this stuff one day. If he does, then great, and I hope it helps him to understand why we did some of the things we did, and why we didn’t do other things. I guess he’s going to grow up and realise that we are a bit different to some of his friends and their families – hopefully he’ll realise that we think we are acting in his interests – our aim is both to be there for him as much as possible when he is growing up.

Another reason for starting the blog is that I just enjoy writing – but I don’t think I’m all that good at it. I see this as a chance to improve myself.

Finally, I’ve always thought “I should keep a diary” (I suspect I’m not alone here) but never actually done it (again, I’m probably not alone here..?!). I hope to keep up the writing of the blog and, in it’s own way, it will be my diary.

4. Where.. do you live?

We’re currently based in the UK, right in the middle of it.

My wife and I have both lived in several different countries, so we are not averse to moving if it improves our circumstances. It’s important to note that geographical location can be important when discussing Financial Independence, and so this is another subject that I’ll surely be writing about at some point.

Question for you again, dear reader: Where are you based? Let me know, I’d love to know how people’s ideas and interpretations of my musings may differ according to geographical location!

5. When.. will you call me again?

I aim to post on the blog at least once a week.

If you leave any comments or questions however, I’ll do my best to answer them on the same day.


Well, that was fun, and I’ve had a lovely time. Hope you have too! It’s getting late though, and unfortunately I’ve got work early in the morning. Shall we meet again next week? Same time, same place.

JAL


Welcome!

Hey there, fellow lifer, and welcome to the just about life blog!

By way of an introduction to the JAL blog, I think it would be a good idea to explain the title. There are 3 main reasons why I’ve gone for thejustaboutlifeblog:

1) Well, firstly, the blog will be about life. It will be just about life. Makes sense, eh?

Now admittedly, that’s a fairly broad subject matter.. but having previously written several blogs, each dealing with a specific area, and having been a reader of many more, I’ve come to the conclusion that unless you’re VERY good, then having a niche area for your blog is not always such a great idea. The number of blogs that I regularly keep an eye on now is naturally dropping off because I feel many have run their course, there’s only a certain number of ways that the author can keep making the same points (unless, as I said, you’re VERY good), or they end up just saying what someone else has already said (heaven forbid!). I find this to be true especially in the world of “personal finance”.. Now, personal finance is an important aspect of most people’s lives, and it is important to me. Well with thejustaboutlifeblog, I will get to write about it, but I won’t feel obliged to barf out any old digital vomit about it every week. This works for me, and hopefully it works for you too.

2) I have no doubt that, at times, the blog will be “focusing on” (i.e. venting spleen about) the excesses of these times. So the other way of looking at that just about bit in the title is that I’ll be trying to get across a message of having, doing, making and using….

just about enough (and no more than that)

Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you all to be layabout slackers! There’s a difference between doing just about enough and not doing enough.. a very, very important difference. One leads to health, wealth and satisfaction for all, and the other, well, it leads to none of those things. Which do you seek – all or none?

3) justaboutlife.wordpress.com is already taken 😉

Although, frustratingly, at the time of writing I notice it’s not being used.. if anyone would like to help me commandeer it, please give me a shout.

So hey, it’s nice to have you here, thanks for reading. Drop me a line sometime!

JAL