So…What Next?

Blimey, it’s been a busy few weeks at Work.  Work in the mornings before going into Work.  Work in the evening before climbing into bed to get some rest for getting up for Work.  Work at the weekends, that traditional break from Work.

I don’t mind busy periods at work, but this one is stretching out towards a month and it’s beginning to get to be a bit of a drag.

Blimey...I'm tired

Blimey…I’m tired

It’s periods like these that make me happy that I am on the path towards Financial Independence, one that if I stay on I can hopefully join RIT at the end in a few short years.

The upside of all the hard work is that I may have secured myself a promotion, that’s more income to be saved right there.

Coming up for two years ago I started this website.  It was following a few days of binge reading Monevator and RIT and I had decided that something needed to change.  Happily I am still writing and even more happily still making positive progress towards Financial Independence.

(Financial Independence being the point where work becomes optional, i.e. my investment income and growth covers my living expenses and I am free to do what I like everyday, be that carrying on with work or spending my days shouting at traffic.)

I have made my fair share of errors along the way but there were two successes, fairly early on, that have helped me to avoid imploding and reverting back to habits of old.

Setting up and investment plan and sticking to it

I’m really scraping the barrel in calling this a plan, it is pretty much…

…find the cheapest provider and the most diversified global tracker you can and throw everything you can at it and then ignore it.

I do this in both my work pension and ISA.

For a meddling fool like myself, this plan is pretty much perfect.  Each and every month pension contributions are deducted straight from my salary and units automatically purchased in the available global fund.  A few days later money is deducted from my current account and used to buy units in the Vanguard VWRL ETF in my ISA.

Apart from logging into the respective accounts to have a quick look at values for NetWorth calculations I have nothing to do with these funds.

I don’t worry about growth, about how much income my investments are generating, timing any purchases or tweaking my investment strategy.  Buy and hold, in the most literal sense.

Sorting out my saving rate

I do bang on about it, but in the early years of accumulation it is your savings (rather than investment growth) that makes the biggest difference in the rate at which you build wealth.

Like a picky meat eater, I spent some time trimming all the fat from my spending.  No more overpriced coffees at work.  Packed lunches instead of daily purchases.  Less eating and drinking out, more evening round at a friends with a good boardgame for company.  More planning and less convenience purchases.

It takes a little while, but I found that each month I could save more and more as my spending baseline constantly reset itself.  It’s not about depriving yourself, just finding a better balance.  I’ve been on a snowboarding trip for the last two years but still managed a saving rate approaching 60%.

Before my expanding head pops like a patient from theme hospital or my mile high soap box topples, it is worth pointing out that a significant portion of my increasing savings rate has simply come about by stemming lifestyle inflation.  Hardly rocket science, yet still seemingly so difficult for many.

I changed career a few years ago, so my income and my expenses dropped as a result.  My income has rebounded as I’ve worked my way back up from a lowly graduate position (for the second time).  But, like a Harold Shipman with a penchant for costs, I’ve kept my expenses under lock and key.  So as my income has crept back up my costs have flatlined and my savings rate has gone up.  Not a bad trick, if you can do it.

So what’s next?

It feels like it’s perhaps time to settle into autopilot on the expenses and investment side, let them do their thing and the result is hopefully inevitable Financial Independence.

There will be a little bit of maintenance from time to time, to ensure there are no expense creeps or asset allocations moving too far away from targets.  But otherwise I feel my work there is done.

I’ve got my nose to the grindstone at work, a couple more promotions there would be nice before easing back a bit, perhaps to 4 days a week.  Just got to keep pretending I am a one man company, consulting for my employer, and not lowly employee that I am.  Seems to make me produce better work, so why not keep it up?

Again, not much to do there, other than keep at it.

The question returns, what next?

Plenty of blogs about financial independence talk about the importance of generating multiple income streams.  The theory being it’s good to diversify, not only do you generate more income but you also increase your robustness in the case of unexpected shocks.

Freelance writing, landlording it up, matched betting and website income seem to pop up everywhere.

I’ve shied away from this.  Free time is limited as it is, and using it just to generate yet more income seems a little soulless.

If it was just about the income I’d be far better putting in a (yet a) few more hours at work to get a promotion or doing a bit of consulting on the side.  The hourly return would be much better.

With the little spare time I have I use it to do none income generating activities like;

  • Cycling
  • Surfing
  • Taking photos
  • Reading
  • Writing this website

To eat into those activities to do something purely for income would ultimately be depressing and completely add odds with my reasons for chasing Financial Independence (being able to spend my time as I choose).

So the trick is to find something I enjoy doing, that does actually generate an income but I can pick up and put down as I please.  This means no deadlines set by someone else.  No fixed hours.  No boss.  No horrendous hours.  But ultimately no disappointment if it doesn’t generate an income, as I’m doing it purely for the enjoyment anyway.

So what would this actually look like?  Lots of little self contained ideas, each generating a small income, that can be looked at in isolation and when I please.

  • So maybe developing a couple of small apps, as an intellectual exercise and if they make a bit of money, then so be it.
  • Trying to get a couple of short stories published somewhere, at the very least I’d get slightly better at writing but be no poorer.
  • Monetise this website a bit more.

As you can see, my tiny, feeble and limited mind is struggling to generate ideas.

Hopefully more ideas will pop into my conscious as time ploughs onwards and I will have the time to implement some of them.

So, my dear Horde, any ideas?

Mr Z

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Normal service will resume when Work backs the fuck down 🙂

15 thoughts on “So…What Next?

  1. ermine

    > Free time is limited as it is, and using it just to generate yet more income seems a little soulless.

    Bravo. As you said, if you were going to sell more of your time for money, more hours at work give you the biggest bang for the buck. Time isn’t a renewable resource, so going for the biggest return is the way.

    Each to their own, but I found trying to make something pay is the quickest way to turn an interest into a chore. For sure, don’t walk away from it if someone offers you money for something you’ve already done and it’s easy, but chuntering out second-rate content and spending more time in front of a screen to earn money aren’t what I gave up working for 😉

    Good luck on the promotion!

  2. Playing with Fire

    [When] “…I am free to do what I like everyday, be that carrying on with work or spending my days shouting at traffic”

    You have some interesting dreams Mr Zombie!

    I’m in a similar thought-experiment at the moment (not the shouting at traffic bit). Three years ago I made a move to a more demanding role and company for many more pennies. I’m now comfortable in the role (experience plus negotiating working from home etc), the learning curve has slowed, and pay increases are also slowing (which is on me). Do I make the next move for a pay bump, more interesting work and more hassle or do I sit in my comfortable ass-imprint on the sofa that is my career and wait for FIRE?

    When I ran the numbers, including travel time, I’ll work fewer hours before FIRE (but over more years) by sitting in the imprint. Over the last year more of my development has been around doing the same stuff more quickly than doing things that are more difficult. I don’t intend to ever work enough years to be CEO of a company that I don’t start myself, get little joy from supervising others (and I do enough training in my current role to extract that particular joy of management), and I’m beginning to max out on the progression ladder for my technical specialty.

    I’m leaning towards taking my foot off the gas now, doing the same great work for my clients, but watching the calendar until FIRE rolls around. Pretty much where you see yourself after the next couple of promotions. We seem to be in similar positions but have reached different conclusions. Is there anything that I’ve missed that you think I should consider before I decide to ease off?

  3. Colin

    I’d take a look at website income……… a website (typically will cost 10-20x annual income it generates) add to it if you feel like it and then it’s pretty much regular income each month. I went the hard route and built one rather than bought one but this has no guarantee it will make money and takes some effort and time. Overall my website generates about 3k a year without me touching it.

    1. Organised Redhead

      Hey Colin,

      This is really interesting to me! I’ve never heard of being able to buy a ready-made website that produces income before. Where would you find these sites for sale, and how do you know that you can trust the website to generate future income?

      Organised Redhead

      1. Colin

        Empire flippers is the best place I’ve found to buy ready made websites………there are some expensive ones but also some at the cheaper end. There can never be any absolute guarantees of future earnings but the websites are established ones which have a published history………DYOR!

  4. living cheap in London

    i’ve been told i should open my own brewery as my home brew is so good….. but TBH i can’t think of anything worse…. it would take all (all nearly all) the fun out of it :-)….. dealing with HMRC on alcohol duty, brewing the same thing every time for the bottling/labelling requirements etc. Much more fun as a semi-serious hobbiest.

    As a downshifted FIRE-seeker, you already know my take on this from prior comments: take a little longer…. use some time now whilst you still have your full health & enjoy some (as many as possible!) days with the things you are interested in. you never know what the future brings.

  5. Norm

    My wife and I have both had little side projects that made a profit, but never much since we didn’t have the time for them. I did paintings of scenes from Nintendo games (don’t laugh) and my wife was selling cake pops for events before people knew what they were. Right now we own a rental property and that seems to do pretty good. We could easily keep that up in retirement, plus doing some more crafty things.

    Monetizing websites does not interest me in the least, but if I can keep my hands busy, make something and sell it, that would be ideal. And I’m thinking of owning property in the future, so I think of stuff that goes with that. I’ve always thought about cheesemaking and having a shed for aging cheeses. Selling fruit from an orchard. I built a house for our rabbits, so I imagine building little outdoor houses for people’s pets. I have all kinds of weird ideas, some profitable, some probably not. I want to be in a position where the money doesn’t matter so much, only the enjoyment does.

  6. Bloodbuzz

    Great post – podcasts seem to be a pretty big deal these days and there are no(?) UK-centric FIRE ones that I know of – maybe you should do that? – for regular content you can interview a different UK blogger each time.

    I tried matched betting for a few weeks – i made a few hundred quid which was nice but even that short time made me feel pretty gross – spending every evening submitting all my personal and bank details to dozens of gambling companies. I know some people have made great money (sometimes illegally) but its not for me.
    Having free evenings and weekends is pretty much priceless.

  7. weenie

    Whilst I consider matched betting a ‘hobby’ or rather something I enjoy doing in my spare time, to make large amounts, you do have to spend a lot of time on it. In a typical month, I’m reluctant to spend any more time than I am now on it, hence I’m never going to make the £1k-£2k that some people seem to make.

    However, whilst I would like to have a hobby that pays, monetising it may well take some of the enjoyment out of it. Like Living Cheap in London, my friends reckon I should seriously consider going into home brewing but it’s something I do for fun only.

    I think Huw did a vlog a while back about making money selling stuff on ebay. I also have friends who regularly buy cheap stuff (sometimes from charity shops) to sell in car boot sales and they seem to come away with tidy profits – I guess you need to know what to buy and what will sell.

    If you put your mind to it, there are lots of inventive ways to make money from hobbies – I mean people are even making thousands selling ‘Pokemon Go’ accounts! –

  8. theFIREstarter

    “Each to their own, but I found trying to make something pay is the quickest way to turn an interest into a chore”

    I’m well on board with ermine here!
    Matched betting is in the main a chore for me but the returns are too good to miss. Plus I have more time now I’m part time so silly not to do some of it to keep the savings rate up.

    I like the way you dropped your spending then upped your earnings. I wish I’d kept my spending low as my earnings increased but twas too late by the time I found this FI thing. Bit of extra pain to then try to drop them but it was worth it, and we could go a lot lower still.

    Not sure I’d describe developing apps as fun but then that’s kinda what I do as a day job (refer back to Ermine’s point again!) So probably not the right person to ask.

    My issue is I’ve got loads of ideas but they’re all pretty big so would require full FI to get any of them off the ground! So I won’t suggest any of them to you 🙂 sorry…

  9. London Rob

    A great post as always Mr Z – and very interesting read. I am in a similar boat of “Its not worth the effort” to try and get another income stream – plus my job means I can’t guarantee being able to do X hours every day / week as it depends on what comes in. I keep thinking about the matched betting, but having to spend what seems like 10+ hours a week just for a few hundred extra quid for the month just doesnt seem worth it to me – enjoy the time, its finding the right balance in life – but its different for everyone!
    London Rob

  10. Finance Solver

    I wholeheartedly support allocating your time to the highest value adding activities. When I was in college, I did not do that and sacrificed anything and everything that I can do get my work done. I got the results but I still don’t like the sacrifices that I did.

    Creating apps can be fun! I’ve been meaning to learn how to develop more apps after my mobile developing class in college but haven’t gotten around to it. If I can help in getting you started, let me know! I’m not an expert by any means but know where to get started. Good luck with the possible promotion!

  11. HS

    Hey Z,
    A while ago, in the dark days of the financial crisis, The Guardian ran an article on how to make less than the minimum wage on the side (they didn’t call it that, but that’s what it was).
    I tried selling my photos on Shutterstock and Dreamstime for a while, since I enjoy photography and take the photos anyway. But seriously, it’s just not worth it. The best way is to do your current job as best as you can, spend less than you earn, and invest the difference. Good luck with the promotion.

  12. Free to Pursue

    A conversation with a friend made me count our household income streams recently. We were up to 10, everything from dog sitting to selling unwanted items to consulting and even plumbing (Mr. F2P’s main occupation). What matters, aside from the surprisingly long list, is that these are things we want to do, don’t have to do, and can stop at any time. That’s where the sense of freedom comes in, regardless of whether or not they bring in income. Find something you like, that you can get paid for but don’t depend on, and it’ll just feel like gravy. Let your gut guide you and NEVER just do something “for the money”. That’ s my 2-cents’ worth.


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