Author Archives: Converse

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About Converse

Fascinated by FIRE and escaping the rat-race. Humanities educated, loves tech and just wonders if everyone could be a little more relaxed and nicer to each other.

Catching up the last couple of months: Business class and using money to improve your experiences

Boy...a crazy few months. Blogging has had to be put on the back burner for a bit. The following post was actually drafted a couple of months ago. I'll post it now, and then update where we're at now in a future post.

We’re currently in the motherland. Flying business was an interesting experience. Was it worth the money? Yes and no.

Charging the same for two very different experiences. Sneaky British Airways…Sneaky

Shortbread’s flight was, by all accounts, great. We’re flying British Airways and her flight was on the newer A350. She had almost a cabin to squeeze her and shortbread Jnr into. Flying with a baby is clearly always massively stressful and challenging, but there was space to lay down comfortably (just). There was space for him to move about and he was pretty chill throughout. It was, all in all, a good flight and an ok experience.

My flight was…underwhelming. I found I was on the older 777. I was in a corner. It was extremely loud. I had to step over another passenger to get to the toilet when their bed was horizontal. Anyone with a physical difficulty would have had it even worse than me. There was no shoulder room in the seat when reclined which made for an uncomfortable experience. I am irritated that both flights cost the same and I think that BA are taking the piss.

Unfortunately our return flight is on a 777. I’ve been working myself up about repeating my crap experience but with Shortbread and Jnr onboard too. It’s going to be so difficult! Additionally we are seeing a typhoon developing and hitting right as we fly home.

It struck me, however, that we could just change flights. We could even just book different flights. It’s a lot of money, but we have a cash reserve that would barely be dented by either decision. A month or two of not investing would cover the cost (or just over).

The stressful decision

For many in the FIRE community it would be nuts to even think like this. I point to the recent Ramit Sethi episode interviewing Doug and Mindy who, despite being by all objective measures extremely wealthy, chose to put themselves through a ridiculous flight schedule to save a few dollars. That’s not celebrating intentionality or frugality, it’s choosing to not use your money effectively for comfort and happiness. Obviously there’s a line here.

The thing is that I have been up for hours at night looking at guides for flying with a baby getting myself stressed. If I just used money to solve this problem I wouldn’t even miss the expense in a couple of months.

Some of this is reminiscent of how an addict is advised to approach conquering their addiction- you go 100% or you fail. Spending is a wasteful relapse. You’re becoming sucked into consumerist spending addictions. The thing is, neither Shortbread or I have a spending addiction. We discovered FIRE partly because we felt so uncomfortable spending the money we were being paid! We haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet, but guilty feelings about spending the money should not play a part at this stage. We need to trust that we can make good decisions with how we spend our money as much as how we save it. We need to trust ourselves to do that.

Other people’s reactions might also be playing a part in our reticence to just pick the best solution regardless of cost. Shortbread was probed on why she flew Business class recently by an old friend she met up with. The subtext of the question was that it’s too much money. Without wishing to be overly bitchy, this friends financial situation is so out of The Millionaire Next Door that we would be unlikely to ever take any kind of financial advice. They are a classic keeping up with the Jones’ type. However, it’s still hard to not be swayed by this and to remember that our decisions should be for us and us alone. It doesn’t matter what someone who doesn’t understand what we’re doing thinks or judges. This might seem obvious on a conscious level, but it’s still takes work to internalise completely.

The guilt and reticence to pay the extra to make my considerable stress go away is interesting. On discussion, I think we’re just going to do it. What’s the point in putting ourselves in a good financial position if we can’t take advantage of it when we need to? We need to trust that this isn’t opening the door to frivolous spending, it’s important to us.

Perhaps we have swayed too far in equating frugality with just not spending rather than just avoiding waste. It’s something we will have to bear in mind in the future.

Q2 Update – Light at the end of the tunnel

This quarter seemed like an absolute slog at times, but in retrospect it seems like it has whizzed by. I don’t think work helped my mindset much – I’m not sure I’ve written many posts picking out the specifics of what grinds me down about my job before. Shortbread Jnr. is doing really well now and leaving him in the morning is getting harder and harder. In some ways the wins this quarter are making it easier though – this accumulation thing is working.

Could it be…an investment account balance not in the red? It’s been a while…

Back in Q1
Net worth: $796,979 / Portfolio: $297,218
This quarterly update is likely to rank as one of the biggest new worth changes ever (certainly in a positive direction). This is partly because we decided to revalue our property. We use zoopla, a site a bit like zillow in the US, to help work out how much it is worth. We are generally quite conservative in our estimates and used the lower of the value range suggested, but things have still appreciated. However, this doesn’t explain all of the changes – the market looks like it’s back! Our portfolio ticked over into net profitability for the first time since early 2022 marking an end to a bearish almost 18 months. We have written in previous updates about not panicking and the extent to which we were down at one point. Perhaps the distraction of Shortbread Jr. has made it easier to ignore all the volatility.

Net Worth: $889,998 ($92,019)
– House: $460,000 ($34,000)
– Retirement Accounts: $49,429 ($4,668)
– Portfolio: $350,569 ($53,351)
– Cash: $30,000 ($0)

Wins this Quarter
Biggest quarterly dividend payout ever! This is a set of goalposts that just keeps moving…and that’s fine with me. We bloody love dividend day, especially without having to worry about taxes. Despite us reinvesting every cent, seeing $1574 hit our account was nice.

Shortbread has managed to find some really cheap playgroups to take Shortbread Jnr to twice a week. She has met lots of different people as a result and is feeling less isolated…it’s hard to be on the other side of the world to your family with a newborn. We’ve been giggling at the slightly nutty things we’ve seen on the expat Whatsapp groups we have both joined – some people have more money than sense. There might be an article in it if we can ensure the tone isn’t too cruel.

Finally, a win has been flying business back home to the UK. Shortbread is currently there as I write this, having flown a couple of weeks early. It’s been a tough few weeks on my own, but a break with Jnr’s grandparents helping has helped Shortbread. We decided a couple of years ago in our money rules that anything over a 6 flight would be business class. This means that Jnr has flown business class before his dad…but by all accounts it was worth it. We started saving for this last year, so the money is pretty immaterial at this point. Tickets were super expensive, but this is an intentional purchase. Besides, the flight is longer than the last time we went back due to war in Ukraine. For us, FIRE is all about being able to use your money to optimise your happiness.

Goals going forward:
• $900k?
A couple of months ago we would have laughed that this milestone might be coming up soon, but we’re currently about $10k away. Who knows what the markets might do over the next few months, but if things stay roughly stable we might hit $900k in Q3. Given how volatile our net worth figure has been over the past couple of years though…I’m not betting on it. If it happens, it happens.

• A room for Shortbread Jnr.?
We’re not sure about when, but Jnr is going to need his own bedroom at some point in the next two quarters. While his waking up in the middle of the night can be a bit disruptive to sleep, I don’t mind it. I quite like him in the room with us. They’re not babies forever, so I’m trying to enjoy all the little things while I can.

• Summer holiday
Work has just finished for me for summer. As I suggested last year…are the holidays the best thing about being a teacher? They are certainly not the worst!

Here’s to Q3.

SweetSpotFI and some web traffic

The other week I noticed in our web analytics* that we’d had some traffic for possibly the first ever time and wondered where it had come from. Turns out one of our favourite blogs mentioned us on Twitter!

I can’t pretend we’ve gone viral or anything, but it’s nice to know that someone read something of ours. Hopefully some of it was useful. We don’t use Twitter (or any form or social media) so we wouldn’t have been any the wiser if we hadn’t seen it as a referrer in the analytics.

$325k! We did it!

In other news…we reached the next stage of FI! Thanks to the market dancing about a bit last week, our portfolio now stands at SweetSpotFI, which is supposed to be shade above the US federal poverty line. I’m not sure it’s still the federal poverty line given recent inflation, but it’s great to knock off another milestone. Many thanks to WeWantGuac for the shout-out and creating the milestones.

Next stop (hopefully)…BeachFI!

*We use a self-hosted version of Plausible web analytics so privacy focused and free!

Collective punishment doesn’t stop at school

A recent article by Robert Wringham (an author I enjoy and who’s books I recommended in a recent post) had me thinking about collective punishment in the workplace. In many ways this is related to F-U money, but I think it applies to employment generally. Wringham’s post describes receiving a collective class detention, the point of which is to have the students unfairly punished turn on those responsible for causing the situation. I’ll be honest, early in my career I did put an entire class in detention more than once…but I challenge him to stand in front of 30 baying little psychopaths like I encountered in the U.K. and not do something drastic to try and establish a modicum of control. That said, it’s not something I’ve done for many, many years.

Are meaningless work rules that dissimilar to collective punishment?

What really got me thinking, however, was that this notion of collective punishment never really stops at school. I have been employed at my current place of work for nearly a decade. Almost every year I have been there new edicts and rules have been introduced. Sick days have been cut. Dress codes altered for men (not nice in summers where a temperature lower than 30 degrees is considered an anomaly, day or night). Requirements for medical certificates on time off have tightened to the point of absurdity – if you need a certificate from a doctor for a single day, why only take a day, even if that’s all you need? Take as long as they will sign you off for!

The slow creep of rules is phrased by management as if its a necessary reaction to a few bad apples. The implication seems to be that a few people ruined it for everyone…but did they really? Wouldn’t a conversation with any one person who took the piss be more effective than a new blanket rule? Just like a teacher who collectively punishes is in the wrong, this form of management is also wrong. It attempts to turn workers on each other rather than direct their ire at the managers putting the bullshit rule into place.

Collective punishment doesn’t stop when you leave school, it just takes on another form.

This is why unions are so important. However, failing that it’s important to get that F-U money accumulated and escape plan formed!

Reason for FIRE no. 302 – Looking busy is bullshit

I’m currently sat at work with nothing to do for the next couple of hours. I have a few tasks due next week and beyond, but I’ve got enough time to do those later…and what would I do in that allocated time if I did those tasks now? For some this surely sounds like a dream come true – being paid for doing nothing?! What could be better??

The thing is, my work environment does everything it can to turn moments like this into a form of spiritual violence against the soul. I work, as so many do, in an open plan office. This is to enable greater “collaboration.” From what I can tell, this is mainly moaning about children. Many of my colleagues collaborate in this way. These conversations usually end with a participant having an intake of breath and saying “right then,” by which they mean “I need to do something that makes it look like I’m busy rather than just chatting.” I’m willing to accept that there is something pressing for them to do in some of these cases. However, it is the looking busy bit that crushes the soul.

I know this is the case for others as, in private, they readily state as much. It’s exhausting and it grinds you down over time. I resent the pretense – why should mental energy be spent on this rather than the aspects of work one might actually enjoy? I love the chance to be creative and productive as a teacher, but this approach just leaves me tired and resentful. Why do we collectively accept it?

Another reason to pursue FIRE and FU-money – at some point in the future I will be able to choose whether I tolerate this or not. I will be beyond the bullshit and not have to worry about losing my job as a result of refusing to play. Until then its a case of using strategies to deal with the spiritual violence of it all.

I recommend Robert Wringham’s writing for ideas on how to do this. I liked Escape Everything! the most.

“It’s different this month” vs long term planning

I’m struggling a little bit at the moment over something that I suspect is trivial.

Shortbread and I have set ourselves a fairly aggressive budget now that we’re only on one income for a little while. We have been pretty amazing this month in just how little we have spent (not counting the takeaways…), but there are a couple of purchases that have tipped us over our budget. These purchases are definitely one offs, but we may have watched too many fix-people type media (think Caleb Hammer, Ramit Sethi’s new Netflix series etc*) and it has left me a bit anxious.


I’m trying to assuage my anxiety by ensuring that I’m thinking carefully about the big expenses which are coming up this year. Tracking our expenses has helped us keep a handle on our spending over the past few years and be realistic in our future expectations. Still, not having the safety net of being a dual-income household is a bit scary. I don’t think that staying within our monthly budget will be a problem, but it’s certainly something that’s playing on my mind at the moment.

I have a colleague who is pretty spendy, but has been steadily investing for the past few years. His spendyness seems to have increased to the point that almost every cent of his recent pay was accounted for by debt. A couple of lean months would more than enable him to zero out any debts and be well ahead, but the large multi-stop international holiday planned for the Summer is unlikely to see this happening. I’m not writing about this to be bitchy, but it has me thinking about how I and others justify their financial decisions. I am worried about “borrowing” some cash from next months budget to pay for something purchased this month. It’s important not to let this be a regular occurrence, in the same way it is important to not justify wants as needs like expensive holidays when already in debt…

Using money tracking tools (another shout-out for Firefly iii!), checking-in with each other regularly and ensuring we’re super honest in our planning is how we’re going to approach this. I’m also going to try and relax and stop being such a stress-head!

*Both of these are hugely entertaining and recommended by the way!

Q1 Update – We’re still here and still making progress!

The past three months have been earth-shatteringly busy, tiring and stressful. However, we’re settling into life as a new family. It’s been a test, but we’ve weathered some difficult moments, stuck together and kept making progress. Sounds a bit corny…but don’t care!

A representation of what this quarter has felt like at times…

Back in Q4
Net worth: $771,918 / Portfolio: $283,000
Markets have been pretty volatile, and we decided to increase our cash allocation. Previously we had been toying with the idea of keeping a lot of our cash reserve in the market, but unexpected health expenses for Jnr. made us re-evaluate that. We have been to some dark and difficult places over the past few months, and we have just kept chipping away and supported each other. Things have got easier every month. We think just about every day is a good day for Jnr. now. He smiles lots, gets held and cuddled for hours at a time and gets lots of stimulation from toys, his baby gym, playing with him etc. We think we might be okay parents.

Net Worth: $796,287 ($24,369)
– House: $426,000 ($0)
– Retirement Accounts: $44,761 ($2,844)
– Portfolio: $297,218 ($14,217)
– Cash: $30,000 ($9,000)

Wins this Quarter
We’re debt-free! Shortbread paid off the last of her student loan as a lump sum. We could have kept it going, but noticed that the interest rate was rising…sneaky student loan people! Given that we’re going to be on a single income for a while, we figured that just knocking the payments out so we didn’t have to think about it was probably for the best. On the subject of being single income…we have survived just fine on our budget, even though technically this is the last quarter we have dual income as a result of maternity pay.

This quarter also saw our largest ever dividend payout – $1,252.07! Given this is not a taxable event where we live, this feels great! Love that free money…for the few minutes it’s in the brokerage account before it gets reinvested.

As mentioned above, the quarter has been a bit torturous at times, but we have come through it stronger and in a great position. Health issues for Jnr. are a bit concerning, but our budgeting has hugely paid off. If Shortbread’s ability to ask for 18months of maternity leave was our first real taste of F-U money, being able to pay for some unexpected and large medical bills without having to worry about it was the second. Simply put, if we hadn’t been working on our approach to financial independence over the last few years we would not be in this position. I don’t even want to think about the alternative. It’s not about retiring early, it’s about having control over the stresses of life.

Goals going forward:
• Shortbread transitions to life away from work
In the same way that it’s common advice for a successful retirement to have something to retire to rather than retire from, we’re mindful of the important of Shortbread transitioning to being a mum during the daytime. It’s a bit of a change, but it’s important to do things like get out of the house and go to places with Jnr., even when it’s a challenge. I don’t want Shortbread to ever feel resentful of me going to work.

• Celebrating $800k of net worth!
We were here in 2021…but volatility (and slightly ambitious valuation of our property) sent us plunging below that number in 2022. With our contributions coming up, we’re sure it’s coming! We should hit $300,000 in the portfolio too, which means a new FIRE level!

• Being the best parents we can be
It’s a bit corny, but everything is about the baby now. Money is interesting and important, but it’s secondary to us building a great family environment. The good news is that now that the really stressful stuff has dissipated somewhat, we’re really enjoying being parents.

Here’s to Q2!

Reflections on the first few months of parenthood

The newest addition to our family is a couple of months old now. It has been the wildest ride imaginable. I don’t think anything could have prepared us for what we have gone through…although that’s kind of the point of this post. We’ve thought about the things we have learned and are currently learning and condensed it into a post. Maybe it will help an expectant parent at some point in the future. Maybe it will just be a marker for us to remember in the future.

Things we thought

“Kids are expensive vs Kids are as expensive as you make them.”
We heard various versions of both of these statements. To be honest, neither really characterises our experience so far. What we have found is that the rationale decision making part of your brain goes right out the window following sleep deprivation and stress. We would have loved to have found the time to carefully consider all our purchases and spend time looking on second-hand marketplaces…but we didn’t have the time. Everything was done with a feeling of blind panic and, sometimes, we just needed things immediately with minimum fuss. Things are less crazy now, but we needed to throw every preconception about buying things out of the window for the first few months. All of them.

“Just breastfeed to save money on formula”
You might be able to breastfeed. You might eventually be able to breastfeed. You might not be able to breastfeed. We figured that we would be able to breastfeed Jnr. and that would be that. Boy were we in for a shock. It was a huge struggle at first and we needed formula to top up feeds. We were using the pre-filled bottles that are expensive because that’s what he was started on in the hospital. Then we ran into supply issues and so bulk ordered a huge amount at great expense. Then we found that Jnr actually has a milk intolerance and we needed to find a formula that worked for him. Multiple (pricey) paediatric appointments later and we think we’ve settled on something that works, but still are trying to move towards more exclusively breastfeeding. The saga continues.

Things we needed to buy

We initially thought breastfeeding was going to mean that we didn’t need to bother too much with bottles and other equipment…we were very wrong! The three things that have been absolutely worth every cent we spent on them have been our steriliser (a cheap model from Mothercare), a bottle warmer and a particular brand of bottles. We tried using Milton sterilising tablets at first, but after several weeks of fishing out bottle parts from icey cold water, shaking them off and then worrying about the acrid aftertaste just to make formula each time was very trying. The steriliser allows us to just drop the washed bottles into it, press a button and wait. It might not sound like much, but it’s been a game changer. Similarly the bottle warmer has been a revelation. You could heat milk under the tap, or by boiling a kettle and putting it in warm water. Then you have to wait for said kettle to boil and worry about the temperature the milk is at. Being able to just put a bottle into the warmer and wait is a convenience we didn’t realise how much we would appreciate.

A decent breast pump was also worth it. We spent a little more, but the whole process can be quite stressful so we didn’t want to have to deal with something that might be less quality. It’s something else that we were quite intentional about and chose to pay extra for convenience in this area.

More nappies/ diapers than you think
We were once all aboard the reusable nappies train. After dealing with digestive issues…we have gotten off that train. We chalked this up as a necessary expense to not think about because, frankly, we were too consumed by the stress of other worries. At least for the first few months, life is too short and too challenging to wash nappies. We may revisit this viewpoint later as we haven’t completely given up on it yet.

Things that saved us

Lots of baby clothes
This was probably exacerbated by the digestive issues, but Jnr needed a change of clothes pretty regularly. This was mainly from the baby sick and spit-up after every single feed. It was a bit stressful trying to get everything washed and dried, but we managed. We needed all of the clothes we had been given and the few we had bought for ourselves. We were given a lot of baby clothes and this is something that can be done well in advance of the birth. Look around for posts giving them away!

Muslin cloths
We started with a couple…now we have a lot! They have proven invaluable for catching sick and just generally being on hand to protect surfaces and wipe Jnr.

Somewhere to put the baby
We realised pretty quickly that an awful lot of time was taken up just holding Jnr. While we didn’t mind this too much (I mean, it’s probably not a great sign if you dislike holding your children…), it meant that simple tasks became much more difficult and took far longer. We found that lots of things marketed to put newborns in were not actually all that suitable as they can’t hold their head up on their own.The first thing we were recommended was a carrier. We were recommended the Boba wrap, which when new is seriously pricey. Luckily, we found a brand new wrap on a second hand site for a real bargain. It took quite a bit of practice, but Jnr eventually really liked it. We were also lucky enough to be given a Lille carrier, but we have only just started using this as his neck muscles are better able to support his head.

We were also gifted a travel cot. This has given us somewhere for Jnr. to nap during the day. Additionally, I got really ill the week before last, so the travel cot meant that Jnr and Shortbread could sleep in the other room to minimise the chances them catching it.

Lastly, we bought a cheap baby mat & baby gym. It’s quite small, but Jnr really likes the baby gym – it has a mirror and various dangly things for him to try and grab as he learns some control over his limbs.

Lessons learned

  1. Have a serious cash reserve. You simply don’t know and can’t assume your baby will be healthy and what you might need cash for.
  2. Be prepared to abandon some of your values; some hills are not worth dying on. You can revisit these when you regain some sanity after the first few manic months. When you have a newborn, convenience is king, and sometimes that will necessitate spending a little extra. Previously, we rarely felt that paying for convenience was worth it, but when you have a new baby it absolutely is.

5 Things We Learned In 2022 About Our Money

The new arrival in our household has meant that blog post ideas have been generated more than actual blog posts over the last few weeks. I’m not sure anything can completely fully prepare you for a new baby, but after an absolutely manic few weeks we are starting to find our rhythm.

2022 might have been brutal…but we learned a lot from it

2022 was a crazy year for investors! In retrospect, however, the past three years have been crazy. We like to think that this has been the best time to start investing as we have seen pandemic panic, stratospheric increases in stock prices, meme-stock shenanigans and the plunging values of markets last year. All this in three years! If you started investing and you’re still not spooked…surely that’s a good sign that you’re dialled in and ready to stay the course?

We thought about what we learned from this year and came up with 5 things.

1. The power of FU money to give you options
2022 was the first time we really realised that we were buying ourselves options by pursuing FIRE. We really wanted for S&C Jnr. to be able to have a parent at home for at least his first year. In the end we asked for 18 months of maternity leave…which was then granted! On top of that, Shortbread’s school even promised to keep her position of responsibility open for when she returned. All of this is wonderful and great, but we were preparing for her to quit if the 18 months wasn’t granted. A few years ago, this just wouldn’t have been an option, but our investments and savings have given us several years of living expenses at this point. Through pursuing FIRE we also track our expenses and budget for things (more on that below). This means that we realised it was absolutely feasible to live on just one of our salaries for a little while.
Additionally, as explained in our Q4 2022 update, additional expenses we hadn’t planned for didn’t really impact our stress levels around the birth. This is really the crux of this realisation – FIRE is not necessarily about giving your employer the middle finger, it’s about giving yourself options. The power to be able to say FU if you need to makes you bolder. It makes you ask for more to see what you’ll get. It removes so much of the fear and stress surrounding big life changes. We really saw this for the first time in 2022.

2. Net worth can fluctuate a lot…but we’re staying the course.
Whoa boy, this year was volatile in the net worth department. You can see in the net worth update posts just how much ours bounced about. In some ways this was great for us neophyte investors having only gotten our feet wet over the last few years. So much of personal finance is geared around the management of your emotions during volatile times. It’s stated time and time again about the importance of not deviating from the plan. We found that, while it hurt when our portfolio dropped, we were going nowhere. In some ways we really wondered if there was anywhere to go in the first place – what asset class did well in 2022? In the face of this volatility, we doubled down and ensured we were maximising our investing through every pay period. Nothing distracted us. It got to the point that when markets began to rise it still felt pretty gutting as the sale was drawing to a close! We learned this year that we were in it for the long term. We are going to stay the course.

3. Tracking expenses is a superpower
We made so much use of our tracking software Firefly III. By December we were absolutely clear on what was a realistic monthly budget for savings etc. Doing this was arduous, even if it was a 1 minute entry using our phones. Frankly we don’t understand how anyone has the discipline to do this in excel or by hand at the end of every day. This certainly wouldn’t work for us! Now we have nearly two years of data we can see where we are spending money and, for the most part, we are pretty happy with it. We don’t really budget in the traditional sense using categories etc, but tracking has given us an insight into our spending that has allowed a level of intentionality that we didn’t have before we started doing it.

4. Quarterly budget meetings are awesome
Further to tracking expenses, having a quarterly money meeting has been brilliant for our relationship and our ability to anticipate expenses in advance. We celebrate our quarterly dividends with a cappuccino (made at home) and some cheap cake slices from the local bakery. It’s a little tradition that we now really look forward to. We are then able to reflect on the quarter just passed and set targets for the next. Our net worth updates are written as a result of these. We’ve discussed things like how much we are comfortable with as a cash reserve and the creation of various funds for things like buying a new iPhone or hospital bills for the birth of S&C Jnr. We recommend all couples check in with each other like this!

5. Treat yourself (especially when you hit milestones!)
While it is a thrill to see your net worth increase (well it is for us anyway…), the actual pursuit of FIRE can be a little dull. It’s just numbers on a screen! We may be in the “boring middle” now, so game-ifying things keeps a sense of achievement. Obviously, a part of FIRE should really be about addressing the things in your life that make you most happy and intentionally choosing how you spend your money. For us this means ensuring our lives don’t become cluttered and we don’t bury ourselves in the things we own. We want to reject consumerism a bit. Pursuing FIRE and intentionality doesn’t necessarily feel like a deprivation to us, but the added issues of living in a different country can make things a bit more challenging. These challenges can often feel like they grind you down and it’s really hard to not fall into the trap of thinking that just throwing lots of money at them can fix them faster or with less effort. In this case pursuing FIRE can edge up towards feeling like a deprivation more than it would if we were living back home. Thus, we have found it extra important to celebrate the milestones we reach on our journey. Treats don’t need to be expensive either – simply doing something together and discussing our progress over cake or a bottle of fizz can be treating ourselves. We learned this year that marking the journey with successes makes us feel more motivated and moves us closer to the intentional lives we aspire to live.

What were the lessons of 2022 for you?

Q4 Update – A new player enters

Our family grew a little a couple of weeks ago…and boy has this changed things! Not everything has been as entirely smooth as we wanted, but our financial preparations ensured that money hasn’t been a source of stress at all this quarter – one of the biggest payoffs in pursuing FI I think it’s possible to have.

Everything is about to change…

Let’s get into the update…

Back in Q3
Net worth: $715,665 / Portfolio: $245,244

We have contributed $12,998 to our portfolio and re-valued our property a little as a result of seeing a similar unit sell. It’s no big deal at the moment given that the property isn’t a productive asset outside of providing somewhere for my mum to live. After the volatility of this year, it doesn’t bother me as much to see our net worth bouncing about a bit. The fluctuating exchange rate between the GBP and USD has also made this significant part of our portfolio quite volatile too as we tend to value everything in USD.

Here are the current numbers:

  • Net worth: $771,918 ($56,254)
  • House: $426,000 ($6,761)
  • Retirement Accounts: $41,917 ($4,594)
  • Portfolio: $283,001($37,757)
  • Cash: $21,000 ($7,141)

Reflections on the year
The stock portfolio is down just under 10% in total from what it was purchased at. This has fluctuated a bit, but we’ve settled into this new normal. We’re pretty calm in our convictions that this will turn out fine in the long run, but people’s reactions have been interesting when they have asked about it. We never considered selling at any point…where would the money go otherwise? The increased dividends have helped stave off the panic. If we consider YTD, we’re down 14.74%, even with dollar cost averaging in our salary every month. Not great, but we have to remember that bull markets make you feel good, bear markets make you rich.

Wins this quarter:
We increased our cash allocation as we planned to, which meant no stress in buying baby things. Some things have been second hand, other things new. It didn’t really matter as we had budgeted the money for it. Additionally, the birth became quite a lot more expensive very quickly as things became a bit complicated… but this wasn’t a stress as we knew we had budgeted for it. The process of pursuing FI is the reason money wasn’t a factor in our stress, we would have been absolutely floored by it all otherwise! Skills like budgeting, tracking our spending and planning our finances have changed our lives over the past few years. This is the fruit of those efforts.

Goals going forward:
We already effectively live on less than one of our monthly salaries and just invest the other. There is a bit of a leap of confidence, however, when you don’t have the second salary coming in that you can definitely still afford to survive! Not only that, but how much do babies actually cost? We think we have planned this ok, but we’re not going to find out how well we’ve done this until we give it a go. Additionally, there is a possibility that Shortbread & Converse junior (a new nickname is going to be needed here…) may need some extra medical care. It might be that the government hospitals are actually better than the private system for this as they have a greater number of specialists and specialist departments. Even so, there might come a time when a private procedure is needed. Our cash reserve should probably cover this for now so we’re not too worried outside of the basic terror that all first-time parents feel.

Other than the financial, the only other goal will be to try and get used to having a new baby at home. Will this take more than a quarter?…probably! We’re going to keep goals pretty small for now.

And goals in 2023?
We’re not completely sure what we should be targeting for net worth growth in 2023. $800k net worth seems doable if markets don’t tank again…but after this year who can predict anything?! $300k in the investment account might well be achievable by next quarter as we are considering investing Shortbread’s maternity pay instead of holding it in cash. An article will probably be written on our thinking behind this later. We think we have a handle on how much money we need to live on each month as we have been pretty diligent in tracking expenses. The one big unknown is the new baby! We have a decent cash reserve in case anything doesn’t work out how we planned. We don’t have any huge expenses on the horizon this year (we have had to budget to move apartments twice in the last two years!), so hopefully we can just settle into a rhythm and invest what is left after expenses. I should also get a bonus in Q3 this year, so hopefully all of this combined should make 2023 a good year for investments even on a single salary.

Dividends also surprised us this year. We received $4,220.13 (noice?), which was quite a bit higher than we had predicted at the beginning of 2022. $5k would be nice for 2023…we shall see! At that point the dividends spun off from the portfolio start to look a little bit like a side hustle in themselves.

Let’s say we’re targeting $85k contributed (including dividends reinvested) in 2023. It leaves some leeway for spending on our trip home in the summer and any surprises from paying things like tax bills. Maybe it will be higher, maybe it won’t.

Happy new year everyone!