My financial journey so far

The journey has had some pretty cool views along the way (credit)

I’ll be entirely honest, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be doing a ‘numbers’ post. But having seen how freely some other bloggers share their numbers (such as weenie at Quietly Saving, Saving Ninja, The FIRE Starter and Fire V London) and having learnt some things I never knew about before from their stories (matched betting and margin loans for example), I figured it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to share some figures and endure the intense scrutiny of the FIRE crowd. I think I run a pretty tight ship, but I have lately been seduced by the dark side – I’ve bought a couple of expensive items, therefore torpedoing my chances of an 80% savings rate this year. Oops.

Ever since about 2015 I’ve developed a habit of on the last day of each month, grab all the figures for my various accounts, investments, mortgages and credit cards (but not pensions, because I’m an idiot – we’ll get to that later) and update my ever growing spreadsheet. So from that point onward I have pretty accurate data on my net worth. Before that though, I’m going off some random bits of memory, some rough guesses and some older spreadsheets I found that relate to my household outgoings, so bear with me on the early parts!

For a brief introduction, you can refer back to my previous post of when I got my first job.

The Early Years (pre-2007)

End Net Worth: ~£1,000.

I started working when I was 16 and still at school doing a 8-9 hour shift every Saturday at the local fast food restaurant where I was paid about £35 a day (and got a free lunch out of it!). Not exactly astounding money but it did help me take my girlfriend at the time out to the movies and shopping! I continued to work there during my college years and I’m pretty sure by age 18 I had roughly £1,000 to my name which isn’t bad!

The Uni Years (2007 – 2010)

End Net Worth: ~-£10,000 (with £3,000 savings, student loan outstanding)

I was extremely fortunate when I left University not to have massive debts. The number one reason was back when I went University tuition fees were capped at £3,300 a year. The second reason was I got a grant for the first two years which halved my fees! I did a three year Bachelor’s in Computer Science, plus I had to pay rent in the grotty houses surrounding the University (I shared with 5 other guys). I continued to work at the fast food restaurant during the holidays (Summer, Easter, Christmas) and remember for the first time wondering what the hell this “Income Tax” was that appeared on my payslip(!).

I can’t remember exactly what I was earning but it wasn’t much even after I got a “promotion” to training the other guys how to make the food. I think I had about £3,000 in savings but my student debts were much bigger as I mainly used my money for fun times and didn’t even think about the loans that much.

Failing to find a job (~2010/11)

End Net Worth: ~-£4,000 (with £9,000 savings, student loan outstanding)

As detailed in my last story post, I graduated from University and then… failed to get a job in my chosen field. The Great Recession of 2008 had occurred a couple of years previously and it seems there was a massive over-supply of graduates trying to get a job. I remember going into an interview at IBM where they had 8 graduate positions available and the room was packed with about 200 people! And these were the ones who had gotten past the first two interview steps! I ended up doing nearly a full year at the fast food restaurant, interviewing for jobs in between shifts and also covering any shift I could get my hands on.

I was, of course, at this point still living at home with my parents. And while I love them dearly, going from complete freedom at Uni for three years back under parental rule was really starting to annoy me. On the upside, I only paid £200 a month rent and got lunch most days for free at work, so I had basically zero outgoings which was nice. I think I made about £8,000 from my job that year, minus the £2,400 I paid my parents for rent.

My first job (2011)

Start Net Worth: ~-£15,000 (with £3,000 savings, car loan, student loan outstanding)
End Net Worth: ~£0 (with £18,000 savings, car loan outstanding)

By some small miracle I actually got hired into a graduate scheme at an IT company! I joined as a “consultant”, which basically meant I travelled up and down the country building and supporting systems. This meant I needed a car. Cue me (in my stupidity of youth), spending nearly £11,000 on a 1 year old Ford Fiesta that looked very sporty but only had a dinky 1.4L engine. I did not have £11,000 to my name so… I borrowed about £5,000 and put down a deposit of £6,000 of my own money. Turns out that financing was quite pricey, but hey I was young and stupid, okay! In my (slight) defence I was still driving that car until late 2019!

My starting salary was £25,000 (I still remember being in the car when I got the call that I’d gotten the job. When they said the salary, I was “in a daze for days” according to my Mum). I was still living at home but due to me being away Monday – Friday for work this wasn’t such a bad problem as before! I think I just about broke even on net worth this year. I had started paying down my remaining student loans (and stupidly didn’t pay down the car loan).

Saving up to buy a flat (2012/13)

End Net Worth: ~£25,000 (no student loan, car loan outstanding)

I don’t remember exactly when but I got promoted to the next level and my salary got bumped up to £30,000, so I think I had just under £2,000 coming in a month. I joined the pension scheme at work, where the employer contributed 10% if I put in 2.5%! I put in the bare minimum (d’oh). I started hunting for a flat in early 2013 and had saved up about £20,000 as a deposit (I always keep a bit of cash in reserve as a buffer).

When I found a lovely flat in an area I liked, I went to the banks to get a mortgage. Turns out they were willing to lend a 23 year old guy £150,000…! That was 5x my salary if you’re keeping score. That actually scared the crap out of me. I am very debt adverse as a rule. Oh, and I still had a year left on my car loan, but to get the mortgage I was required to pay it off, argh! I had to throw my savings buffer at the car and at all the related fees that come with buying a property.

Home (flat) ownership! (mid 2013 – mid 2015)

It was a nice flat, but not this nice! (credit)

Start Net Worth: -£130,000 (no car loan, £20k equity, £150k mortgage)
End Net Worth: -£33,350 (£92k equity, £138k mortgage, £12k cash, £5k credit cards)

I had just gotten debt free and then I got a huge mortgage. Oops. According to my spreadsheet of the time I was paying the following major costs a month:

  • Mortgage: £627
  • Council Tax: £85
  • Utilities: £66
  • Fuel: £50 (work covered most of it though)
  • Food: £100

My salary had grown to around £36,000 though which was nice. I also discovered that the bank I took the mortgage from allowed you to overpay by £500 a month with no penalty. I had yet to discover investing, Monevator or the FIRE movement then, else I might have put my money into some global trackers and reaped the rewards! Ah well.

Instead I over paid my mortgage by ~£5,000 a year and brought that crazy 5x salary multiple down to a much more reasonable number. I remember sleeping better when it dipped under 4x salary. My flat also jumped up in value apparently, as I started tracking my end-of-month numbers and I have the equity value as £92k! Also, amazingly, I think I was achieving about a 50% savings rate back then. Win!


A note about Net Worth and my spreadsheet

From this point onwards, around August 2015, my spreadsheet started recording the values of various assets and debts on an end-of-month basis, so the numbers should be pretty accurate from here on out. I calculate Net Worth as:

Total of all assets (except pension) minus all debts = Net Worth value

Why don’t I include pensions? Because I never thought to actually keep track of the them until the beginning of 2019… argh! Stupid boy. I probably figured they weren’t worth thinking about until I was much older. I did start taking notice in 2018 but still didn’t track them, and I have no idea what was in them before then, so you’ll see a big spike starting 2019. Anyway…

Assets include: cash, equity, ISAs, pensions (after 2018), never my car
Debts include: credit cards (even if they’re work expenses), loans, mortgages

A history of my net worth from August 2015 – January 2020 so far – orange is the addition of pensions to the net worth calculations (click to enlarge)

Starting to track things (mid-2015 – 2016)

End of 2015 Net Worth: -£29,500 (£93k equity, £136k mortgage)

I continued to work hard at my job and was up to about £38k salary. Not factored in my spreadsheet are the various bonuses I received twice a year – I don’t think they were massive sums or anything but they would have been chucked at the mortgage or saved in cash back then.

The year of the job change (2016)

End of 2016 Net Worth: £13,000 (£110k equity, £119k mortgage, £11k S&S ISA)

I had by now been at my job for nearly 5 years and was looking for a change. I was getting a little bored of being stuck on the same client for over a year and the prospects of getting a new one seemed slim – I had a very niche skill set at the company and they refused to let me train up anyone else in what I did. I hunted around for a new job.

I eventually landed a job with a massive salary increase to £63,000(!). I was apparently being underpaid at my old job and never realised it! With my (pre-tax) salary bump of 65%(!) I was set to really super charge my savings rate! My spreadsheet shows that my outgoings had actually dropped quite a bit for my flat, as all those mortgage over payments meant I qualified for lower rates as well. Expenses a month were:

  • Mortgage: £493
  • Council Tax: £92
  • Utilities: £77
  • Fuel: £100 (work still covered most of this)
  • Food: £125

I had also finally discovered investing and started building up a Stocks & Shares ISA, slowly drip feeding in about £1k a month to test the waters. My new employer offered a 5% match on their pension and I started contributing 15% of my salary into it (the max allowed at the time). My spreadsheet shows a 76% savings rate for 2016!

An engagement, a house, a TV and a cat (2017)

End of 2017 Net Worth: £36,500 (£165k equity, £196k mortgage, £33k ISA)

I asked my girlfriend of the past few years to marry me and she said yes! We both ended up selling our flats (mine in a commuter town in the south east, hers in London) and bought our current home in a leafy suburb of London. I stayed with my parents for a couple of months while the purchase went through, which is why my net worth sky rocketed for a couple of months then drops to nearly nothing on the above chart. This year I also achieved a raise and my salary grew to about £68,000, after helping deliver a particular gruelling project which was on fire for most of the year…

From this point on, we shared all household costs between us 50/50 but the below numbers are the half I paid. The numbers are a bit higher than when I was living in my flat:

  • Mortgage: £745
  • Council Tax: £83
  • Utilities: £50
  • Fuel: £100 (work still covered most of this)
  • Food: £100
  • TV Loan: £150 (bah – it was 0% interest at least)

I splurged out on a shiny new 4K OLED TV which is still awesome for cinema nights, but it was a really stupid purchase… sigh. We also adopted a cat from a shelter as it was one of my wife’s dreams to have one – she is adorable and a pain in the butt (the cat, not the wife).

Ploughing on, a wedding and a honeymoon (2018)

You only get one honeymoon, make it a good one! (credit)

End of 2018 Net Worth: £87,800 (£192k equity, £170k mortgage, £50k ISA)

I got married! Woo! With my wife and I’s combined salary we started overpaying the mortgage as much as possible while filling up our ISAs to the £20k limit each year. We then spent the winter in Hawaii exploring the islands and generally having a good time! My salary rose quite a bit this year as well due to good project performance.

Oh, and I finally got my beloved solar panels installed at the end of the year!

Crushing the mortgage and tracking pensions (2019)

2019 Net Worth: £210,000 (£212k equity, £150k mortgage, £53k ISA, £109k pensions)

I finally started tracking my pensions, which account for about half my net worth. Excluding them, my net worth still increased by about £12k, but this was mainly due to throwing a crap load of money at the mortgage to get it down to a reasonable level. My salary again rose due to “exceeding expectations”. I also received a large bonus which was 100% put into my pension (lest I be tempted to spend it). You’ll also notice there is a significant dip around September 2019 – I sold a chunk of my ISA and got a loan to buy the car of my dreams; a Tesla Model 3. It was worth every penny.

I achieved roughly a 77% saving rate in 2018 – but that’s excluding the car purchase, which came from a mixture of savings and a loan. I upped my pension contributions to 20% and they grew almost £35k with contributions and a surge of stock market growth, so it wasn’t all bad. I plan to do a ‘year in review’ at some point to dive into more details on where my spending went and what I managed to save last year.

In summary

Looking back through the years and the numbers, I can see there’s been some lifestyle inflation going on, but that seems mainly to be linked to moving from my small flat to a much bigger house in London. The mortgage is by far my biggest outgoing. We’ve cleared nearly a third of it in the past two years and it’s still bloody huge. Housing in London is ridiculous.

I certainly had some good luck with getting on my graduate program all those years ago, but I’d like to think I returned their chance on me with many years of hard work, late nights and (paid) weekend work. If you deliver what you say you will, when you said you would, people start to notice and will reward you for it.

Excluding the mortgage (and soon to be gone car loan), my annual expenditure on day to day living is a pretty measly £5k a year(!). It definitely helps I get my transport and meals covered by my job most of the week but even at the weekend I don’t really do expensive things. I’m far happier sitting in a pub with my friends and playing board games, or just wandering around town and grabbing a coffee with my wife than anything else.

A good life does not need to be expensive!


9 thoughts on “My financial journey so far

  1. That’s an impressive journey so far, thanks for sharing 🙂
    We went down the route of staying a little further out of London and having a longer commute. I can’t bring myself to spend such a large chunk on housing, I’m hoping to get close enough to FI and then relocate to a cheaper area and take the salary hit (or remote work). Although this tactic might bite me if the housing market continues to rise!
    Congrats on having such low expenses too. How much money are you hoping to save before you call it quits?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bloody hell, I went away for an hour and you’ve blown my traffic stats through the roof – thanks Mr. Ninja!

      I fully understand the reluctance of moving to (or near) London. I commuted in when needed before, but my wife was born and worked in London and insisted on a tube station within walking distance, so I bit the bullet. On the upside there’s lots of fun and cheap things to do in London if you know where to look and an off-peak return journey is only £3.00 on the tube 🙂

      That’s a very good question. If we moved to a cheap area now, we’d both probably be nearly FI, but we both really like this house and area and are planning to stay put for at least another 10 years hopefully. I was aiming for about £12k/year as a ‘floor’ amount but that assumes paying off the mortgage as well which will require a few years of throwing money at it. So let’s say… £400k (including pension) and a paid off house. But don’t hold me to that 🙂

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      • Awesome post. May I ask roughly what area you live in London? I’m wondering about affordable locations to buy a house…

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        • Hi playingwithfire – not wanting to be very specific, I’m further out than Zone 3. Generally, the lower the ‘travel time to Zone 1’ the more pricey whatever area you are in is. Houses near tube stations can be very expensive. I’ve heard from friends Greenwich is a bit ‘up and coming’ and surprisingly in Zone 2 – but it’s mostly DLR around there. If you’re willing to walk, cycle and/or moped (https://igniting-fire.com/2020/01/16/electric-mopeds-making-commuting-cheap-and-fun/) then you have a greater range of options. Zoopla’s heat map will help you find lower cost ‘spots’.

          If you get sticker shock looking at the price of even 1-2 bedroom flats in an area, I strongly suggest looking further afield such as Slough, Reading, Basingstoke or Farnborough or on the other side, at Ipswich and Braintree. These are all commuter towns with fast trains into London (Waterloo, Paddington or Liverpool Street, can’t remember which ones go where). I started out in that kind of area and moved into London once I had significantly more funds / better pay / a partner.

          Hope that helps!

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          • Thanks, I’m in zone 2, 2 bed flat atm. May need more space at some point so always on look out for affordable houses. Seems one needs £650-800k for a house across the capital. Around me it’s more like £900k+.

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  2. Awesome record keeping! I started my spreadsheet in January 2019 so I have a long way off yours yet, but it really motivates you seeing the progress each month and looking back at previous figures and how they’ve grown.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Really great that you’ve shared figures & to see how much progress you’ve made. Great work!

    Am I missing something though or are you calculating your net worth in a strange way. Isn’t it just ‘assets minus liabilities’. I don’t see why your net worth should drop through the floor when you buy your flat?

    Like

    • Hi John, thanks for the encouragement!

      When I bought the flat, I went from having £20k in cash (my deposit), to having £20k in equity and £150k debt with the mortgage. £20k – £150k means I am at -£130k net worth which is why it looks like that. I imagine other people would say the flat value itself should be used (£170k in this example) but I just can’t view things that way.

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  4. Definitely an impressive savings rate, especially for London!

    Love that your dream car is a Tesla, I’m also in that camp but haven’t taken the plunge yet. I had a minor early life crisis when I had the opportunity to buy a great car and had the money burning a hole in my pocket, don’t regret it for a second but definitely not abiding by the fire ethos! You putting your bonus straight in your pension to stop you spending it definitely resonated, great idea!

    See you haven’t been tracking your pension pre-2019, have you tried to contact your pension provider and ask them to send you your annual statements?

    Like

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