2020 Q1 Update: Coronavirus Quarantine Edition

The hidden danger floating around the world

Well, it certainly has been the weirdest start to a year that I can ever remember. Lock downs, food shortages, eerily quiet streets and more video conference calls than you can shake a stick at. As always, I hope you have been spared the Covid-19 disease so far or are having the mildest symptoms possible while we all try and wait out the virus and not overwhelm the incredible people working at the NHS.

I am fully expecting to be furloughed in the not too distant future as the work at my employer has been steadily dropping due to postponements and cancellations of projects but so far so action has been taken by management in this vein so fingers crossed. Fortunately, being able to survive on a rather low amount of money a month, even dropping to the £2,500 maximum payment from the government (a not insignificant pay cut), would still let me have a positive savings rate. Further proof that the FIRE lifestyle works both in the good and bad times! While my FIRE pot has certainly taken a bit of a battering, I still hold enough in cash, bonds and shares to get me through a couple of years if the shit really does hit the fan harder than it already has.

And as a nice extra bonus, when I passed my ‘bloody difficult’ exam, it turns out I was eligible for an extra ~£2,000 (after tax) bonus which I never knew about! That money has been chucked at the car loan, as per Monevator’s excellent series on debt I read recently.

Matched Betting

Encouraged by TheSavingNinja’s and weenie’s posts on Matched Betting, I thought I would take a look into it and see if it was for me. I made £504 (after costs) in late January which was nice but I’ve decided it just takes up too much time for me to bother with on the whole and I don’t enjoy being spammed by bookmakers. Based on the fact most sporting events have been cancelled recently I’m not sure it would be worth doing right now anyway. But if you want to try it out I’ll provide weenie’s OddsMonkey referral link here – I have no wish to benefit from promoting Matched Betting, for reasons I may elaborate on in a future post.

Solar House Project

The days are getting longer and the solar power is rising! Having just submitted my Feed-in-Tariff figures for Q1 of 2020 I’m happy to report that the panels managed to produce around 497 kW of power! We have been getting pretty much free hot water during the sunniest days and on an especially sunny long weekend the car gained 180 miles (~45 kW) of ‘free’ sunlight powered range which is amazing!

Due to the extended lock down though, I am running into the issue of the car’s battery being near full all the time and unable to use the excess power being generated off the panels and it is instead being sent out to the grid. This isn’t a bad thing (I’m offsetting someone else burning gas / coal) but does lower my utilisation figures(!).

Health & Fitness

This game was destroying me at the beginning of the year

I mentioned way back in early January (remember that simpler time?) that I would be progressing from my light(-ish) workout of Ring Fit Adventure to a ‘proper’ workout, such as the Insanity Workout during the summer. Well that plan was brought forward massively and my wife and I now spend 6 days a week doing the Insanity routine religiously of an evening, just before a nice hot shower and a healthy dinner.

We’re currently near the end of Week 3 and having done ~16/17 workouts now, I can say that I was absolutely not ready for this again haha. But I am improving! It also adds a bit of structure to our days and we actually look forward to it, because afterwards we’re free to relax. And having a gym buddy does make it so much easier to keep going, even when you just want to put on Netflix and eat biscuits instead…

Net Worth Updates

And finally, how is the net worth situation looking on my end? Frankly, when I did the calculations for valuations on 31st March I was bit surprised the drops were as low as they are. Certainly they may drop a lot further as the quarantines around the world drag on, but there’s a surprising amount of ‘meh’ in the markets on the whole from what I can see (ignoring specific areas such as travel which have cratered like an asteroid hitting the moon).

All in all, I am roughly down about 12% from 31st December 2019, excluding new money added during 2020 Q1. That drop was made a lot less worse by the fact I had shifted nearly 35% of my portfolio to bonds in 2019 Q4 based on trying to estimate my risk tolerance and deciding being 100% equities was perhaps not the best idea. Pure luck on my part that I preempted the stock market crash, but I’ll take it!

For the latter part of 2019 I was buying £300 of VAGP (Global Bonds ETF) every month and not much else as I was still throwing money at my car loan as much as possible. Since the crash I have shifted to buying £500 a month of VHYL (High Yield Shares ETF) and have shifted 10% of my portfolio from VAGP to VHYL. I also have a large slug of VWRL (World Index Tracker ETF) but am not currently adding to it yet. The car loan is nearly gone and then I can go full on into pushing £2,000 a month into my ISA on both VWRL and VHYL, assuming my usual employment holds out(!).

Here’s how the overall situation is looking for now:

December 2019 ended at around £210k, whereas March 2020 ended at around £220k
(Blue is non-pension stuff, Orange is pension stuff (SIPP / Company Pension))
Investment2019 Q4Contributions2020 Q1Difference
(minus Contributions)
A table showing the contributions made in the past 3 months

If you’re wondering how my pension contributions are so high, it’s because I currently sacrifice 25% of my salary into my work pension, my employer tops it up by an additional 5% and they also give me most of their employer NI savings. I also had the option to receive my bonus entirely into my pension if I wanted, which I took them up on and which saved me a large chunk of income tax! Hopefully if/when the markets recover I will have been very happy to have bought in at lower share prices as the Pension currently sits in a 25/75 bond/equities split.

Plans & Goals for Q2

I only have a few goals going forward right now:

  • Get fitter with Insanity and enjoy more time at home
  • Push as much money into my ISA as possible before being furloughed
  • Play more games with friends (online of course!) as I have more free time
  • Finish paying off the car loan (less than £3,000 to go)!
  • Keep washing my hands!

What are your own goals for the coming summer? Keep safe and have a good one!

4 thoughts on “2020 Q1 Update: Coronavirus Quarantine Edition

    • I know it’s entirely irrational and a fairly expensive way to get ‘free’ energy, but it does give me a warm buzz generating my own power 🙂 Shame in the UK we have such dark, short days in winter!


  1. Thanks for sharing my OddsMonkey link and sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy matched betting. It certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea as a side hustle but good to hear that you made a profit in the brief time you tried it!

    Good call on shifting a wedge of your portfolio into bonds – who cares if it was luck!

    Hope all goes well with work and you stay safe (and fit!)


    • You’re welcome weenie – I hope your referrals keep going up, you seem to be doing well out of it! It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the mechanics of matched betting, it was quite interesting seeing how it was done behind the scenes, it’s just that it seems like an incredibly inefficient way of spending my time. The placing bids, laying off and other stuff is just crying out to be automated… I’m sure someone *cough* thefirestarter *cough* has already done it.

      If I ever have the time (very busy at work still), I’d probably come back to it as a programming challenge. Automating processes and fuzzy maths/probability is basically my day job anyway… 🙂 I’m happy to report the £500 went towards debt payment though, so it was worthwhile for a month!

      Liked by 1 person

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