Confessions

Since I’ve started writing this blog, I’ve noticed I’m getting REALLY good REALLY quickly at dishing out advice and orders. But how good am I at listening to others’ advice and orders, or even my own?

 

Well, I’m self-employed these days – so that probably answers the one about orders; I take ‘em from nobody except myself 😉

 

And the advice? Well, I generally do try to practice what I preach. But in the last week or so I’ve noticed I’ve started to slip in a few areas. Since one of the main reasons for starting this blog was to make myself accountable, I feel like ‘fessing up to a few things. Hopefully I’ll shame myself into action (or in the investing case – inaction)!

 

So, here goes.. In the last 10 days I have…

 

1)      Done resistance exercise only ONCE (it should be 3 times in this period)

2)      Been running a grand total of 0 (ZERO!) times (I should have been once or twice really)

3)      Caught myself researching funds that AREN’T INDEX TRACKERS! OH THE SHAME!! 😉

4)      Considered buying a motorbike (not instead of the car, but as well as the car)

5)      Looked at long haul flights to take a decent break over the other side of the world

 

Stop, stop, that’s quite enough! Ok, so nothing really serious – we’ve still been socking the savings away, living under budget etc. – but you gotta nip these things in the bud early, or else! This time next year I could find myself still sitting at this desk, 2 stone overweight and invested in the latest Neil Woodford fund.

 

Better get back to it!

 

JAL

PS – As there always are, there are “reasons” for the things in my list having happened (or not). But since “reasons” is just another word for “excuses” I’m not even going to go there. There’s always a way to squeeze in some exercise, as Mrs JAL has shown in the last couple of weeks. She’s put me to shame!

 

Verti-GoPro goes loco, doh

Responsible for – amongst other things –  all manner of funny “sports fail” videos, potentially assisting people with insurance claims, helping to catch thieves, allowing us mere mortals some mouth-watering first person perspectives of what it might be like for elite extreme-sports men and woman (and/or nutters) strutting their stuff right in the sweet spot, and one of the most gorgeous videos I’ve ever seen, sports and leisure camera maker GoPro went public last week with a $24-a-piece IPO.

 

Falling into the infinitesimally small group of companies that I feel I actually “sort-of” understand – I know what their products are, what they do, who uses them etc. – I almost considered trying to get hold of some of these shares. However, I resisted because of one of the many reasons why I have steered clear of buying individual shares in any company thus far;

I have no idea what their “business model” is, what their accounts look like etc. and I’m not the sort of person (yet) that has the time or desire to look into it too much and try to make a call on whether I consider them “investable”.

 

It’s fair to say then, if I were to buy shares in any given company, it wouldn’t be the most well-informed decision, given my uber-lazy attitude in this respect. It could be said that it would be “a bit of a gamble”, and gambling is not high up on JAL’s “how to get rich” guide.

 

So, I stuck to my conservative guns, left all my investment dough in the confines of my warm, fuzzy passive index trackers, and let GoPro go pro without me. And what did I notice last night? In their first 4 days of existence on the NASDAQ, their stock pretty much doubled in price.

 

Whilst my initial reaction was obviously “Oh f***! If only I’d listened to my instincts and taken that punt…!”, at least I have re-affirmed something in my mind – even though occasionally I think I’m just starting to get a grip on the absolute basics of how “the stock market” works, it is still an entirely unpredictable place that scares the living crap out of me.

 

Maybe I’m wrong though? Maybe someone can explain this behaviour that we’ve witnessed in the first few days of GoPro’s IPO? If so, please let me know! Although I guess if anyone really did understand it, then they’d have also seen it coming, and thus have probably retired to their private island by now. In which case, don’t forget to send us a link to your GoPro scuba diving video 😉

 

JAL

Owning your home

I mentioned in Introduction To.. Wealth that money is an extremely emotive subject. So it stands to reason that if you stick absolutely truckloads of money into the place that you and your family live, then we’re on seriously dodgy ground! Strap in.

 

There’s plenty of people out there that will tell you that:

“owning your home is a terrible idea”

and there are people that will tell you that:

“owning your home is a great idea”

 

So, first up, my personal viewpoint; I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with owning your own home (and yes, in the interests of complete transparency, I’m biased because I currently do own my own home!). But it does depend on the circumstances; everybody’s situation is slightly different.

 

Run some numbers; it might be evident that it’s not the right thing for you to do, not at this point in your life anyway.

 

Alternatively, after running the numbers, and depending on what’s happening in your life, then owning your home might turn out to be a great idea.
Looking back, it was right for me to buy, it’s served me well. Paying off the mortgage last year felt amazing, and now we sleep at night safe in the knowledge that no landlord or bank heavy can come-a-knocking and tell us to “get orf their land”  (yes, yes, my house is freehold). And of course, we also have a much higher savings rate than before as we’re not currently paying rent or mortgage.

 

But here’s the thing – for people looking to become financially independent as soon as possible, you may be able to use your house as a way to reach FI earlier than you had previously thought possible.

 

Imagine that you’re planning to move towns, areas, or even better – countries. Or maybe you weren’t actually planning to move, but you are able to move, and you would consider it if that brings your FI date closer. Now then, if your current house (the one you own, or part own) is worth more than houses where you are going, then that could obviously work in your favour. (If you currently own a house in London, then I guess this applies to you if you’ll consider moving just about anywhere else!)

 

And things could be even better if the rent-houseprice ratio where you’re going is low too.

 

Here’s an example, and it’s a real life one; it’s our situation.

 

Our house is a 3-bed semi on the outskirts of town, with a current value of about £160,000.
Where we’re planning to move to, a similar sized house could be bought for €100,000 (or possibly even less, at the moment). At the time of writing that is about £80,000.

 

OR, here’s another idea – we could rent a house there for about €5,000/year (currently about £4,000).

 

So our £160,000 house sale would give us about €200,000, which is 40yrs rent money to stuff under the mattress. (Yes, that’s in “today’s money”.. obviously rising rentals would bring that number down.. although if the €200k was wisely invested then we’d hope to at least beat that nasty inflation).

 

OR, another idea – instead of selling our current house, we could rent it out for £600/mth (€750/mth) and bingo, it now pays our euros-rent, plus currently gives an extra “left-over” income of €330/mth. So that’s the food bill and the ‘leccy paid for. And assuming that rents rise fairly evenly in both countries, our rent (plus hopefully that extra bit for food and lights) would be covered for life.*

 

I would say it’s worth thinking about! Like I said – everyone’s situation is different, but there’s always more than one option, and I think that the process of thinking through these options – and thinking of new options you hadn’t previously considered – will stand you in good stead for this financial independence lark.

 

JAL

 

 

 

 

 

* Hopefully we’re talking about a period of at least 40 years here, and obviously the currencies could do all sorts of wacky things over that period! But again, if you’re willing to look at options, be flexible, “think outside the box”… then I think you’ll always find a way to make things work

 

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me.. some shares in Mercedez Benz?

What’s up world? How’s it going?

 

This afternoon I sat through a 2 hour on/off conversation between some guys in the office I’m working in today. I didn’t participate, for two reasons:

 

  1. I would have probably upset a few people (which is something I don’t generally like to do)
  2. I was making notes on the conversation because as soon as it started I could smell a nice, freshly roasted blog post ready for carving!

 

Basically, these chaps – all very nice, decent lads I should point out, nothing personal whatsoever here – were discussing cars, as work colleagues often do. To be more precise, they were discussing new cars.

– Which new car should employee (a) now purchase to celebrate his recent bonus (even though the bonus comes nowhere near paying for any of the cars in question)?

– How much has employee (b) been recently offered for his 3 years old motor by his friendly local dealer, in part-exchange for a new one? (62% of the price he paid for it just three years ago, by the way.)

 

Now, one of these fellas has only recently started work at this place. He used to work for a similar company that have offices literally right over the road from the office we were sat in. He and his (ex-)colleagues all became casualites of the ever-popular trend of outsourcing. Sympathy not really required though, it matters not to them – they all quickly got new jobs, and they all got not-at-all-insignificant redundancy payouts – miniumum £30,000 by all accounts. Tidy.

 

So anyway, this guy made it known that he’d just seen his old colleagues as they’d all been back to their old office for a lunchtime farewell. Three of his old colleagues, he told us, had just bought new Mercedes cars with their redundancy money. The group of guys involved in the conversation all then toddled off together for a look – and sure enough they came back 10 minutes later with a photo of the three new Mercs parked next to each other, shining and resplendant in the midday sun.

Now..(brace! brace!)..

I’m not criticsing these three people at all – it’s quite obviously their money to do what they want with. But…

By golly, if I had that sort of lump sum paid to me.. Well, I reckon I would be quite a bit further down the line to financial independance, whichever way you look at it. That £30,000 (the lowest sum received, remember!) would fill two people’s nISA for the year. Or maybe it could become a decent deposit on a buy to let property.

 

Having scribbled down some notes and drafted out the blog post thus far, I went for a quick walk. And I thought “I wonder what would have happened if, instead of purchasing one of the rapidly-depreciating and completely-unnecessary-to-them products of the company, they had instead invested in shares in the company ?”

 

Well, let’s see.. Here are Daimler’s share prices:

 

14th March 2014 (when these guys got their big cheques and P45s):

64.41

 

25th June 2014 (today):

69.28

 

So.. wait.. If they’d have bought shares in Daimler instead of the car itself, they’d each now be looking at a minimum…

– £2,268 increase on their initial capital?!

– Almost 7.6%!!

– In THREE MONTHS?

 

Hands up anyone who would like to see that sort of return on their money?

Wow.

However, back in the real world… Instead of looking at that 7.6% INCREASE on their money, they now have a car. A car which, if they took it today to a dealer to “trade in” or just “get rid” then I reckon the dealer would be offering them.. what?.. at the absolute top-end.. 80% of what they paid for it? A 20% LOSS.
Now, ok – this is all a tad contrived, because back in March I almost definitely wouldn’t have said to them “buy shares in Daimler!”. Also, of course, they could have invested that money and lost 7.6%, or even more. But then, I wouldn’t have recommended they sell an investment after 3 months anyway (except, perhaps, if they had seen a 7.6% return on it in that time..!). No, had they asked me, I probably would have just recommended they bought “some sort of investment” with it, and then left it there for a minimum of 5 years. Keep the current, perfectly serviceable motor vehicle, take up your next job, and seriously get to think about winding things down a bit in 5 years time, aged 45.

 

So, as I said, I almost definitely wouldn’t have recommended buying shares (regardless of the company – I just don’t do “shares”) – I just had that thought on my walk and thought it would make for an interesting point (and I think it did!). But how’s about if they’d have invested in something which I might well have recommended? What if they had just stuck that money in one or more passive investment vehicles, index trackers?

Well, let’s look at an example:Vanguard LifeStrategy 80. It’s currently up 3.2% in those 3 short months. Not quite the awesomeness of 9%, but what would you choose :

3% increase, or

20% decrease

?

Again, I must point out that the tracker could have quite easily lost value in this time too, but that’s not the point because I wouldn’t be recommending they sell for quite a while anyway. The JAL investing plan isn’t based around buying one day and selling the next. We buy an investment with a view to keeping it for at least 5-10 years.

 

Also, we haven’t mentioned dividends either. Those guys would have been getting a little bit of that too, a nice bit of extra income as well as the capital gain. That income, compared with the outgoings of motor vehicle ownership..

 

Hey ho, enough already. I hope those dudes enjoy driving those cars, ‘cos I reckon they’ll be driving them (if not even costlier replacements for them) for another 20-30 years. Driving them to some office or other. Rather them than me!

 

JAL

Use it or lose it!

Hi there!

 

Due to various reasons, it’s been a long time since I managed to post anything. My most humblest apologies, but – if you know me at all by now, you’ll know that there will be no excuses! Time to get back to it, there’s so much still to say.

 

As has been the case for the last couple of months (but this time largely down to something more trivial) I don’t have an awful lot of time right now, so this will be brief. Nothing wrong with that – brevity being the soul of wit, and all that – and that’s what we’re about here at thejustaboutlifeblog; distilling things down to a few simple, easy to remember points that get us ahead and keep us there.

 

Anyway, I digress..

 

To set the scene – I’ve started doing quite a lot of work for one client, and most of my time with them is currently being spent at one site. I always try to take a lunch break, to reap the many benefits of a little exercise and fresh air, and occasionally I walk past the village library. Now, I had always assumed that you had to live in a certain area to join the local library of that area, and as we don’t live in the same area as the library in question, I never even stuck my head in the door. Until yesterday lunchtime, that is, when I finally plucked up the courage to go in there for a nose around. And guess what? I found out that I can indeed join – they don’t care where in the UK I live. So I did, I joined that there library, and took 3 books out immediately.

 

I still consider myself incredibly fortunate to live in an age and society where we have these oases of resource-filled calm within stumbling distance of most Wetherspoons. The library in question is not a huge one, but it’s still got plenty of decent-looking reading material to keep me busy, internet access, wifi, it’s air conditioned, and did I mention – it’s FREE? Over the last few years I’ve probably been guilty of buying too many books – I bet you know the drill; you buy far more books than you could possibly ever read in the time before you go again and buy some more! I could have saved myself a bit of dough had I just used the library, and I wouldn’t have had the storage headaches at home either.

NOTE: I very,very rarely buy new books, I’m a charity shop book-buyer. It’s one of my simple pleasures in life. Browsing through their endless shelves of as-new books, and looking for the hidden gems amongst the mountains of “I’m A Celeb (Except I’m Not.. Or Am I.. Who Cares?)” autobiographies.

 

Once I’m done with chastising myself for not having re-discovered the wonders of the local library sooner, I’ll be posting again. Until then, enjoy the football and, if you’re Spanish or Australian, maybe pop down your local library at half-time and get yourself a self-help book on “Coping With Loss”.. and return them again soon before us English need them 😉

 

JAL

 

 

 

 

 

PS – This post is deidcated to Mrs JAL, who quietly (what other way is there?) joined our local library a couple of months ago and brought home some books to help us:

a) grow a higher quality, and a bigger quantity of crops in the JAL trial vegetable patch
b) prepare interesting and healthy foods for a 1-year old who’s allergic to almost everything :/

– Mrs JAL (and junior JAL) – you are my inspiration!

 

 

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.

money-case-163495_1280

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.