A Brief History of Me

What follows is a very brief history of me, some of my background and the major events that lead to the development of this blog. Hopefully, it’s not too boring for any passing readers! I may go into more detail on some of the events in future. Concepts like early retirement are quite unusual so it’s always interesting to see how someone came to believe in such an idea.

Beginnings

I grew up down south in the leafy suburbs of Surrey before I enjoyed a six year stay in York where I studied my degree and a masters. I stayed in York after my studies, working, spending money and enjoying life for a couple of years. It wasn’t to last however. It was around the end of 2010 when major life events tore apart my reverie and woke me from my slumber. I was wholly unprepared for what was to follow.

York - A beautiful city of vikings and hen nights.
York – A beautiful city of vikings and hen nights.

What happened? Well, two things happened. Firstly I broke up with my long-term girlfriend. I’m not planning to talk about this event a great deal, suffice to say I took this pretty hard. Secondly, I was made redundant. The company I was with decided they didn’t need such a presence around York and started to cut jobs. I was still only 10 months into the job and so I received the grand total of – wait for it – 1 weeks notice and pay.

At the time I had no savings. Indeed, my bank account was usually in the overdraft and I also had direct debits to pay – I’d bought a laptop on finance, had an expensive mobile phone contract to pay, not to mention the usual household bills.

The jobs market was also fairly weak at this time (late 2010/early 2011), especially in the north.  Reluctantly I signed on at the local job centre, applying for housing benefit and jobseeker’s allowance. I’ll never forget how depressing this was. However even when the money from the benefits started to roll in I still couldn’t afford to pay for everything. I started to panic a little as my limited savings rapidly decreased.

It was around this point that I started to budget. And when I say budget, I mean really budget. I began keeping a spreadsheet to track my spend, down to the last penny (a few years later I found out this is the first step in the nine step plan of Your Money or Your Life). I started to categorise each payment, creating columns for things like gas/electricity, mobile phone, food, and so on. I needed to understand where my money was going and how quickly I was going to run out. I began to count down the days until I’d have to ask my parents for help.

Meanwhile I had no real reason to stay in York. Some of my closest friends had moved away and I had no love interest or job to speak of there. It was at this point I began looking further afield for jobs. I went for interviews and application days in London, Manchester, and Leeds but was up against stiff competition – it seemed like everyone in the country was chasing a handful of jobs.

Then one day I got a message asking me to go to an interview over in Lancaster. The job was for an IT consultancy firm, where they’d train you up in some useful data management skills and then hire you out, for a fee of course. It sounded great – I’d learn some marketable skills and be paid for the privilege. The catch? I could be farmed out anywhere in the UK. It was a little scary knowing I could end up in the middle of nowhere, or worse somewhere like Glasgow or Hull (joke – sorry if you’re from Glasgow or Hull!).

The interview went stunningly well – it felt like the questions were designed for me and I developed a rapport with the director of the company. I was made a job offer the next day, and I accepted it the day after. Thus began my brief but eventful stay in Lancaster and Morecambe, from March 2011, where I’d learn about data and coding and analytical systems and did a little consulting before, in December 2011, I moved to Northampton to begin a longer term contract with a large financial company.

FIRE

It was around this point that I discovered the concepts of Financial Independence and Retiring Early, or FIRE, for short. A good friend mentioned the concept of Financial Independence and pointed me towards ERE – the Early Retirement Extreme blog written by Jacob Lund Fisker. I must admit I wasn’t won over immediately – it did seem very extreme – but it planted the seed for the idea that would blossom over the next year or so. I watched a BBC documentary called ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ (no, not the gameshow), which in turn lead me to read ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki.

My job was going well and the company I’d been contracted out to, lets call them CardsRUs, decided they wanted to keep me and so they bought me out from the company I’d been trained up by. Shortly after I became permanent at CardsRUs I was asked if I wanted to do a secondment in Milan, Italy. I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

Milan - Where Catholicism meets Consumerism.
Milan – Where Catholicism meets Consumerism.

From September 2012 to January 2013 I worked for CardsRUs in Milan, Italy, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I tried (unsuccessfully) to learn some Italian, and ate lots of amazing Italian food. I should add, CardsRUs were paying for my accommodation out there, and also giving me a tax-free daily allowance of 55 euros. I barely spent any of this and by the time I returned to the UK I had made some significant savings.

One other thing about Italy – I had a lot of free time. I worked 9 til 6 every day and didn’t have much of a social life (my work colleagues didn’t really go out much and I didn’t know many people) so I stayed in most evenings. I managed to watch all 7 series of Star Trek TNG and all 7 series of Star Trek DS9 (yes I know), and the first 4 series of Breaking Bad. In between binging on TV box sets it was around this point that I discovered blogs like Mr Money Mustache and began to get excited about FIRE. I started to put £250 a month into my company sharesave scheme. I also really wanted to put the Rich Dad Poor Dad philosophy into life, about investing in assets and decreasing liabilities, though I hadn’t really formulated a plan as such.

Since moving to Northampton I’d lived in a house share with 4 other people and I was fortunate I got on well with them and could count them as friends. Living in a house share kept my costs low – I was spending £295 on rent, all bills included. Early in 2012, after I’d returned from Italy, my landlord declared she was selling our house.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have even considered buying the house from my landlord. Some of my friends had bought houses and they’d bought those houses for themselves, using the odd spare rooms for people to visit. Indeed my parents had told me a house is the best investment you can make and you should buy as much house as you possibly can.

I on the other hand had been reading Rich Dad Poor Dad. I wanted to invest in an asset – something that creates money – not a liability. My landlord’s house, the house I was living in, fit the bill perfectly. If I bought the house from my landlord I could continue to live there with my friends, using my house predominantly as a rental property, thus investing in an asset rather than a liability (I suppose with 5 of us living there, including me, it was 80% asset, 20% liability). In Northampton, despite being only an hour from London, the house prices are quite reasonable, and I ended up buying the house for £162.5k.

Of course it wasn’t all plain sailing, and perhaps I’ll go into detail on the house in another post, but the house has basically paid for itself so far, and the value of the house has increased about 25% in the last 2 and a half years, an incredible return really.

The Present Day

I’ll leave my bio there for now. My first house purchase was in April 2012, a couple of years ago now and a lot has happened between then and now, but this post is about how I became who I am today and I’ve waffled on for long enough already.

It’s time for me to document where I am and where I hope to get to. I’ve noticed some fellow bloggers have set themselves deadlines to become financially free – I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet, but I like how they’re documenting their efforts, their monthly budgets and savings results, their investment decisions, and their difficulties and successes. I hope to emulate some of their successes and maybe have a few of my own.

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