I hope you are all well and that the financial winds blow strongly for you. I stopped blogging back at the start of 2019 for various reasons:
1) My girlfriend moved in with me and our finances became more intertwined – she gamely let me incorporate her income, expenses, and net worth into my spreadsheet, which was great but meant I felt a bit more conflicted about sharing so much on my blog.
2) Living with someone meant that my free evenings were no longer free so much – when we lived apart I always had a few free evenings each week to write a bit more for the blog. Once she moved in that became harder for some reason, I can’t really explain why, we were just always doing stuff.
3) I got a bit obsessed with British politics for a while, and though I’ve occasionally mentioned my thoughts on Brexit (I think it’s shit) I didn’t really want to infect the blog with all that. I have been thinking it could be made into a TV series though:
- The 2016 Referendum (right up to the moment David Dimbleby declared we were leaving).
- The 2017 General Election.
- 2018… Can’t really remember what happened that year – weak 3rd season.
- 2019 House of Commons shenanigans, the European elections, downfall of Theresa May.
- 2019 The Rise of Boris and the 2019 General Election.
- 2020 Covid etc and then the actual Brexit deal on Christmas Eve.
- 2021 Who knows, looks like lots of ‘teething issues’ so far (lols)…
4) One of my friends figured out I was writing the blog (which was my fault because ‘Wephway’ is an old nickname), which meant I lost my anonymity a bit and I enjoyed that anonymity because it meant I could write whatever I want without worrying what someone else will think.
5) I’ve been trying to write a novel for some time, so usually when I get free time that’s what I do with it.
Anyway I’ve been thinking for a while about getting back into writing this blog, mainly because I feel I still have a lot to say. I listen to the ThisIsMoney podcast every week and they actually mentioned my blog a while back (when I was talking about the 18 Year Property Cycle) so that’s quite encouraging. Also The Investor from Monevator asked me about the blog, and said he still regularly checks it, which is nice. For me the blog was always just my way of airing my thoughts and progress (and rants) in a semi structured way – the idea that someone might actually be looking out for my posts feels kind of strange. And then I saw last week that The Fire Shrink has listed my blog as one of the deceased FIRE blogs and I thought: this will not do.
So I guess I wanted to say I’m still carrying the FIRE torch, still heading gradually towards that FIRE date. My ‘FIRE date’ has stayed remarkably consistent despite a number of fairly major life events these last couple of years. Which leads me nicely onto…
2019 started off fairly quietly for me, my girlfriend had been living with me for a few months by then, we had two lodgers who were both friendly and tidy, and I had moved both of my houses onto 5 year fixed mortgage deals. I had quite a significant chunk of money in a savings account from one of the remortgages, about £65k or so, and I was trying to figure out what to do with it. I did consider buying another rental property – I saw quite a few on the market, some single household, some multiple occupancy. But around Spring time me and my girlfriend started talking about buying a house together and keeping our current house as a rental property and that plan took over.
In May 2019 we put in an offer on a nice detached house and it was accepted. There was a Polish family living there who wanted to move back to Poland, and the house had been on the market for some time. Indeed the housing market in general was quite sluggish at that time. They had already had one agreed sale fall through, so I think we turned up at just the right time. The house was out of our budget initially, on sale for £370k (which they had already lowered from £390k). We offered £350k and settled on £355k.
We only put down a 10% deposit, and I’m not sure if we’d have been able to get that deal if we tried to buy the house in the current climate. We got a 5 year fix for 2.29% which seems amazing to me especially for 90% loan to value. You might think with £65k set aside we could have afforded to put down a higher deposit, especially on our joint salaries, but bear in mind the stamp duty came to over £18k and also my girlfriend wanted to put in a share of the deposit, and so 10% was where we ended up. It also left me with some spare cash for other expensive plans I had…
In June, on holiday in Cyprus, I proposed to my girlfriend. We climbed up a mountain (it felt like a mountain anyway) in 35 degree heat, and when we reached the top I went down on one knee (and not just because I was exhausted). She said ‘yes’ which is good because the walk down would have been very awkward otherwise. It was a beautiful view over a reservoir and the sea.
And then in August we moved into our new house. On the hottest weekend of the year we moved everything over, including 4 double beds and mattresses (my lodgers had moved out by then), 2 sofas, various other pieces of furniture and so on. It was tough. Every time I move house I resolve to not buy so much stuff and then I end up buying more. As you do.
It was around this time that I had something of an exodus with my HMO rental property with all 5 tenants moving out. 2 of them moved in with their boyfriends, 2 moved down to London, and the other moved away to start a university course. One of the problems with owning an HMO (house of multiple occupancy) is that you rarely get a chance to do much refurbishment because there are always tenants living there, but this was a good opportunity to do just that. I also hired a letting agent – previously I had managed everything myself – and this was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because my stress levels dramatically reduced.
We began organising our wedding and started paying deposits for suppliers and setting aside money for that. It was another big expense on top of the house purchase, but it was all doable – I don’t think I was ever too concerned about my finances. In July/August 2019 my letting agent started filling up my HMO with new tenants, and then in September 2019 I started getting rental income for the house we had just moved out of which I was planning to rent out as a whole. My letting agent had set me up with a company that offered supported social care to vulnerable people and they effectively took over the house. I’m not sure if I get as much rental yield as I might with a normal tenancy, but it’s much more reliable income and I get to feel like I’m giving something back.
So, end of 2019, all set for our wedding in May 2020, everything looking good on the housing front with our house and 2 rental properties, and then in 2020… Covid happened.
2020 was a rubbish year. In fact, if I’m honest, by about July I just wanted it to be over. At the start of March we were still planning our wedding and our respective Stag and Hen Dos. We even went down to a house party in London mid-March, which seems a bit crazy in hindsight. There was a BYOB policy (bring your own bog roll). I remember walking around Sainsbury’s the morning after, watching people piling their trolleys with supplies. we did see the odd person with a mask on and we both thought they looked really weird and it’ll never catch on.
Everything got cancelled. It was quite shit. The wedding we eventually postponed to March 2021, and then began the process of telling everyone and moving all our suppliers over. This wasn’t fun. Our honeymoon, on which we were going to go and climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania before going on safari and then a beach holiday in Zanzibar – also got cancelled. The travel company offered us a ‘credit note refund’ which is basically an IOU and meant we were giving them a nice interest free loan, up until about October when we chased them and they eventually refunded us the amount.
We went on lots of walks, because there wasn’t much else to do (we now know our local area really well), and there were lots of Zoom calls and quizzes and so on. I spent a silly amount of time playing Animal Crossing whilst I neglected my real garden. I can’t remember exactly when the Chancellor decided to cut stamp duty but that was a bonus of sorts – it didn’t really affect us apart from it meant the value of our houses went up. My sister and her family decided to sell their house and move closer to us which was great. I grew a big bushy beard.
In March/April I took all the money out of my company share save scheme, about £11k in all, and plugged it into a Vanguard Lifestrategy ISA. I had a brief conversation on a Monevator comments thread about whether this was sensible and I’m still not sure. I was supposed to be buying shares at £1.20 each and at that time the share price had dropped to I think about 80-90p (if I remember correctly). The ISA has since gone up in value about 27% and I reckon it’ll probably go up further in the coming year. Meanwhile in October I started the new share save scheme buying shares at 84p each – they’re already back up to about £1.50. I’ve no idea where they’ll be in 5 years time when the share save scheme comes to fruition but I think I’ve got a bargain there.
And then we decided to get pregnant. Because originally we were planning to get married, go on honeymoon, and then start trying for a baby, and now none of that was happening and we thought we’d do things back to front.
Somehow we got pregnant straight away end of April (I mean I know how it happened I’m just saying it happened really quick), and we started getting all excited about that. And then of course, because it’s 2020 you know, it all went wrong and by July we were back to square one. I’m not going to go into detail here but let’s just say the whole episode was one of the worst experiences of my life so far.
At the end of July things were starting to open up again and we took a weekend away in Wales where we climbed Mount Snowdon. The weather was great, sunny, perfect views for miles around from the summit. Fresh from that achievement we decided we would do The 3 Peaks, and in September we went and did Ben Nevis (again great weather) and Scafell Pike (really crap weather). We were thinking of trying to fit a holiday to Italy in around this time also but decided against it – my now fiancé wouldn’t have been able to self-isolate for two weeks after for her work if the government had suddenly changed the rules so it was out the of the question really.
Then, end of September, Boris made another of his (by now insufferably frustrating) speeches declaring that lockdown measures would be needed for another 6 months or so. We counted forward to our March 2021 wedding date and realised, yes that’s right, we would have to postpone again. We went out for lunch to a pizzeria and decided we would postpone the wedding to June 2022 and try making a baby again instead. It’s kind of crazy that we’ll have been engaged for 3 years by the time we get married, longer than we were actually going out before we got engaged. But that’s just the way the world is at the moment.
Somehow, we got pregnant straight away again. Again! I must have super-swimmers. This time we were both really nervous, and I didn’t really get all that excited until about 9 weeks in we went for a private scan and saw for the first time a little heartbeat, flickering in black and white. Quite amazing really, I’ll never forget the relief I felt when I saw that image. In mid-December we went for the 12 week scan at the NHS and all was still good so we broke the news to our families at Christmas.
So after all, 2020 wasn’t so bad. We climbed The 3 Peaks and we made a baby (well it’s still in progress but we’re over half way). New arrival should be in June 2021. We both kept our jobs so I guess we should count ourselves lucky for that. We’re still alive. Here is our joint net worth (the green line), still going strong:
2021 is going to be much better, fingers crossed, touch wood, don’t walk under any ladders, run away from any black cats, and definitely do not walk on three drains in a row.
Take it easy,