Category Archives: Retirement – Early

Land Wanted (Advert)

Wanted

A small parcel of land in a peaceful area where I can put up my 16ft Yurt and small off-grid solar energy system. At the moment, I’d prefer this to be in the South East of the UK so I can maintain my current job.

What I want

What I can offer

1/8th to 1 acre of land

To be self-sufficient-ish

Based in the SE so I can earn some £££

Some other people on the same trip to work with

The company of my-self, part-time

Permaculture skills – Doing up yer land

30 000 of her majesty’s pounds

Dry wit and enormous doses of cynicism.

The land I have in mind would either have sufficient room for me to start establishing a water harvesting/ food growing/ waste disposal system using Permaculture methods, or be close to a personal or collective project which is already involved in establishing such a system. I’d actually prefer to be working on projects with a range of other people, I just want my living arrangements to be private, because I like a bit of space to myself some of the time.

I only actually need the tiniest space for my yurt (an 1/8th of an acre would do) but in my wildest dreams this tiny space would be in the middle of a few acres of land with sufficient room to establish a few fruit trees (although unfortunately I might not be around long enough to help harvest them!), a raised bed system, and with sufficient woodland nearby for me to able to source fuel for my (innovative) portable rocket mass heater, and somewhere for me to build a compost toilet, naturally.

Of course if all of this is already established, or in the process of being established, then that would be just fabulous, but I’m just as happy to plonk myself in a bare-field and start from scratch. I’m also happy to go much smaller-scale too. 1/8th of an acre would be enough for me to start establishing a Permaculture basic-needs system. In other words, if you’ve got a big one, I’d be happy to pitch-up in your back garden. Also if you’ve got a suitable caravan then you’d save me half day of putting up my yurt.

PS I don’t mind irritating Nimby dog walkers while in the process of doing this. I’ve been through a special blessing-ceremony especially designed to ward off attacks by those wielding tightly rolled up copies of the Daily Mail. I also have every faith that even Daily Mail readers can be reformed (although in fairness maybe their wealth will need to be forcibly removed first).

Payment

I’m sure we can negotiate but to kick off proceedings….

Ideally – No money changes hands. You just let me put up my yurt on your land and let me work on it – which I’m happy to do for free. Hours of work to be negotiated. I’m thinking a figure of 10 hours a week in exchange for living on your land is fair.

Less Ideally – If it’s an ideal setting and you’re happy for me to do less work than 10 hours a week, then I’m prepared to pay some rent.

Fantasy Realm – You allow me to live on your land for free, and pay me to work your land as well.

Super-Fantasy Realm

You sell me some land. I’ve got £30K kicking about that I’m willing to sink into the perfect piece of land, although I’m well aware of how little that gets you in the SE of England and how rarely such small parcels of land come up for sale (hence the advert, it’s too depressing searching and coming up with nothing).

Why I want to do this in the South East

Frankly I’m sick of paying mortgage-interest on my flat in Surrey and I’d like to sell up and buy outright in another part of the country to stop paying money to a bank which is doing nothing to earn it. However, I can only afford to do this in another part of the country, and I don’t want to quit my current job just yet, so I’m left with the option of squatting on someone’s land. Rent around where I live is just an insult. Fortunately I’ve just always fancied squatting some land and living in a yurt, for decades actually, so it seems sensible to give it ago.

Future Plans – Also give me a buzz if this sounds of interest….

In 2020 (ish) I’ll either be quitting work for good, or starting a ‘gap decade’ during which I’ll travel around Europe with a van and a yurt to visit and stay at some of the many interesting looking Permaculture projects that are evolving in numerous places, so if you’re reading this and you’ve got somewhere that you think might be a medium or long-term (anything from a few months to ten years) possibility for sighting my yurt in the not-too-distant future then do get in touch, as It would be nice to start networking and planning my grand-tour now.

Contact me via twitter if you can make my dreams come true… realsociology (on twitter)

P.S. Technically I don’t actually own a yurt or have any real Permaculture skills as yet (bar having gone on one Introduction to Permaculture weekend), but picking up both is in the medium-term plan, and if I get any decent responses to this ad, then I’ll just accelerate said plan.

My Moneyless (more or less) March Manifesto

My Moneyless (more or less) March Manifesto

So far this year I’ve spent far too much time putting my money where my mouth is, via shitty food, beer and way too many take-out-coffees, so my aim in March is leave my money in the bank and go moneyless, more or less.

There are three/ four reasons I’m doing this:

  1. To save money to try and keep my goal of being able to semi-retire by 48 on track.

  2. To practice the kind of money-restricted lifestyle I’ll need to transition to in later life if I am going to retire early (anything after 53 for full-on retirement I would regard as a total failure, unless I cave in and decide to go part-time at work before I turn 48).

  3. I need to get back to some serious self-discipline after a fairly slack winter.

  4. It feels right – spring is coming, it’s lighter, and this coming half term is only five weeks long – and I’ve got 3/5 Friday’s off teaching, so only 2 full weeks – NICE!

I say more or less because I’m going to make the following exceptions:

  • Any outgoings I’ve already got going out – Which in somewhat contradictory-fairness is a lot of money. So a more honest title for this post might be a ‘disposable-income-left-after-outgoings-less experiment – but it doesn’t alliterate so nicely. My justification is that my ERE strategy is presently best facilitated by my remaining locked-in to the money system for a few more years because of my reasonably high salary and ludicrous rate of equity gain on my mortgaged-flat. Hence it only makes sense to experiment with the money I’ve got left over after mortgage repayments and the utilities I need to pay by virtue of living a non-off-grid salary man lifestyle.

  • I’m going to buy simple, cheap, food – but I’m only going to allow myself to buy the following: Fruit – apples and pears, peppers, tomatoes, olives (I do so love olives!); Veg – celery, carrots, spring greens, onions; milk, cheese, butter and eggs, beans and tinned tomatoes/ paste, tea bags, grain staples – cereals, rice, pasta, couscous, spreads – honey and Mar-mite, walnuts, maybe some pumpkin seeds, and sultanas and dates and flour – to bake bread. I feel the need to bake bread. I mean I could spend two hours a week skip diving, but when I only need to spend £20 a week on food and I can earn than in an hour, it’s completely irrational to skip dive!>! I’ll do one shop, once a week on a Saturday.

  • I’ve got an INSET day in London in mid-March so I’ll need to spend £30 on train fair. Technically this isn’t coming out of my own pocket as I’ll be reimbursed, but it’s London, so I imagine I’ll do coffee on the way up and maybe a beer or two after. Call it a £10 exception to the rule. What can I say? I’m weak.

  • If I need anything for emergencies I’m damn well forking out. This is highly unlikely, but if, for example, a brake cable snaps on my bike, or a drill bit breaks when I’m building something (‘cos I’m a proper builder, me) I’ll replace them. Or if I get a little touch of man-flu I’ll buy myself some paracetamol. What can I say? I don’t like pain.

Wish me luck, and if you see me this March, please feel free (‘cos I certainly will be) to take me out and buy me a pint, or two or four, or a coffee and almond croissant.

I’m not fussy, at least if you’re buying, but I do prefer ale rather than shitty lager, and I might even return the favour, in April.

Cheers! Here’s to a money-free March 2016, more or less.

Four Options for Quitting Work in my 40s

I’m getting a bit sick of my job – It’s a lot to do with the job, but also probably to do with being 42, and with it being January (at the time of writing this).

Also, I’ve now given 15 years full time to ‘the man’. Enough is enough for Christ’s sake. That’s almost a 5th of my entire life.

My original early-retirement plans (in 2015) were to ‘hold-out’ in full-time employment for 7 years – by which time I could travel or transition easily, but the way things are going I might crack earlier, so I need a crack-up plan. NB I’m claiming this as a new concept – a back-up plan is something you have in case a new venture goes wrong (which implies risk taking). In my original early-retirement plan there is no real risk of it going wrong – I just stay in teaching for another 7 (now 6) years and save-hard. However the risk is that I go fucking nuts before the next 6 years are up, hence the need for a crack-up plan. If I feel my mental health deteriorating any more I’ll transition early. This is a post about my options.

It’s interesting to note that this is an indication of how truly awful the UK education system is – I work in a nice college, with nice kids and nice staff, and teach an interesting subject. In short, outside of the immoral private sector teaching doesn’t really get much easier than my job, but my job still makes me feel anxious and miserable and generally shit. This is the effect of the system constantly focussing on the negatives and always demanding more. This is the sub-optimal logic of performativity caused by the neoliberalisation of education. Life is not worth living as a teacher in a marketised education system. The only thing currently keeping me in it is the fact that I earn enough and am frugal enough to save down and get the hell out relatively early, which is something I advise anyone insane enough to go into teaching to do.

How much money I’ve currently got to play with

Current liquid -ish assets

£20K

Equity (-£5K sales shaft)

£110K

Total capital to play with

£130K

Other (approx)

£16K – Ring fenced for spending when I’m 58/9 (Hoping this will grow and extend into my early 50s)

The headline news is that I can already afford to buy a house outright in a cheap part of the UK, which means I could quit my job now, work part-time for the rest of my life and still probably fully retire in my mid-late 50s.

If I wait until 2018, things are a lot more comfortable, if I wait until 2021, that’s near enough sufficient for me to fully retire.

What I perceive to me my total array of practical options to escape work:

  1. Downsize to a small homestead/ croft somewhere else in the UK, or maybe Ireland, quit work and figure out another way to earn money/ live without money, more or less.*

  2. Downsize to a cheaper house in the UK, rent it out to earn a small base income and travel/ do voluntary work abroad.

  3. Downsize to a cheaper house in he UK, rent it out to earn a base income, buy some land in Portugal and ‘do Permaculture’ and figure out another way to earn money/ live without money, more or less.

  4. Downsize to a cheaper house in the UK and buy a houseboat, and figure out another way to earn money/ live without money, more or less.

  5. *I could do this, and then just stay at work and rent in the local area as a sort of ‘transition year’.

NB – It’s unlikely that any of the above will kick in for me until 2018, given the enormous housing bubble currently inflating in my local area, which I think it’s safe to ride it for a couple more years. 

NB – When I say live without money more or less, I spent a lot of time reading about freeganism this holiday – check out the previous post. 

Approximate Costings

Strategy

Initial Transition and capital costs

Additional Capital Required

Anticipated monthly expenditure

Buy a small homestead/ Croft UK

£150K House

£20K

£900.00

Downsize and travel

£160K

£150K property and £10K to kick-start travel fund

£30K

£200.00 – £1000

Downsize and buy land in Portugal

£200K

£150K House in UK

£50K Land and transition to Portugal

£70K

£700.00

Downsize and buy

House-Boat

£180K

£150K House

£30K Boat

£50k

£900.00

Option 1: Buy a small homestead (nearly) outright and earn money working part-time from home

One advantage of owning a two bedroom purpose-built flat in Surrey is that the flat’s worth a ludicrous amount of money, currently around £245K. With £130K left on the mortgage, and after the £5K cost of being shafted by the sales-system (which I could lower if I self-sold it), this would leave me with £110K in the bank. Plus the £20K I’ve currently got kicking around that leaves me with £130K.

With £130K I could actually buy outright a two-bed semi-detached house in Lincoln. I’ve never actually been to Lincoln, but it does seem to be the cheapest place in the UK that’s not a shit-hole where you can buy cheap property. Given that I grew up in a town that was a shit-hole and that I presently live in a town that’s not that dissimilar, Lincoln would probably be a step-up for me. There are probably other towns where you can buy relatively cheap, some may be better, and if you know of any candidates then do let me know!

Amazingly enough £130K would also be enough to outright-purchase a small bungalow in the highlands of Scotland on just under an acre of land. Add on £20K for updating the property and this would leave me with a mortgage of around £20K.

I figure that it doesn’t really matter where I live in the UK, but I do kind of fancy the Scottish Highlands. When all you want to do is grow vegetables, meditate, read Sociology books, and make your money online-tutoring who cares where you live? I figure the cheapest non shit-hole town/ rural location is best.

A £20K mortgage paid off over ten years would mean repayments of around £200/ month, add on my anticipated monthly costs of living @£700/ month = £900/ month income required to survive, which means I could live off a part-time income.

For every year extra I work, I’ll should have another £15K to play with, so if I do this in 2018 I can add £30K on and maybe even buy a nicer house. Also, I could buy for something a lot cheaper in Ireland, which is something I maybe need to explore more.

Option 2: Downsize and travel

This basically involves downsizing as outlined above, with all the attendant costs plus £10K to kick-start my travel fund.

The rental for a £150K ish property would be around £550/ month gross, which would come down to around £400 month net. Obviously whether I can live off this depends on what I can put up with ‘on the road’.

There are numerous people out there ‘budget travelling’ who demonstrate a range of possibilities viz how little money you can get by on. One of the most inspiring is Dan Suelo – The Moneyless Man – who has managed to survive without money for the last 16 years of his life, but I’d personally be more inclined to become the moneyless, more or less, man. Not as cool, I know, but I know myself. And I’m not cool, so that’s OK by me.

This option also opens up the possibility of buying a van (A converted VW Transporter or Mercedes Vito or something similar) and being more mobile (and obviously not money-free), which would ad about £10K to my overall transition costs.

Of course I could combine travelling with a variety of voluntary work and even paid work – time to dig out the TEFL qualification maybe?

Option 3: Buy a house in the UK outright and buy some land in Portugal; rent out the house and move to Portugal and ‘do Permaculture’.

This strategy involves buying some kind of cheap-ish property as in the other options above, but also buying land with a wreck in Central Portugal and then ‘doing Permaculture’ and self-building a small eco-house. I calculate that I’d need about £50K to very comfortably establish myself in Portugal – £30K for the land + a further £20K to transition over there. When I say ‘very comfortably’ – this includes one year’s worth of living costs while I get established + the cost of a van, and yurt.

The advantage of this would mean that I could rent out property in the UK one while I live in Portugal. The rental for a £150K ish property would be around £550/ month gross, which would come down to around £400 month net. This means that if I escaped immediately I’d have to find an additional £300/ month to pay for said property, but if I can hold out until 2018 then it should pay for itself, and after than it becomes an income-paying asset. So, somewhat unsurprisingly, the longer I can stick out my job, the easier my life is later.

I’ve looked at a fair few blogs by people who have done this, and as long as you’re careful to do everything right, it is possible to pick up some cheapish property in a couple of acres of land to renovate, actually for less than £30K. Central Portugal seems like the best bet.

The massive downside of this plan is that I’ve never been to Portugal, I’ve hardly spoken a word of Portuguese, and my earnings potential would be massively limited. I’ll take a holiday there at some point in the future, I’m sure I’ll like it.

On the ‘doing Permaculture’ front – I’m sure renting out property one is against the ethics of the movement, but I’m also sure, given the prevalence of middle class 50/60 somethings in the movement, that this is extremely common practice, just not something which people advertise freely.

As of February 2016 this is my preferred option for escaping work, hence why I’ve gone into the detail.

Total cost of buying a reasonable property outright in the UK

£150K

Total costs of buying land in Portugal and fully transitioning

£50K

Total Net Wealth Ready to Invest

£130K

Additional Capital Required to fully transition

2016 – £70K

2017 – £60K

2018 – £40K

2019 – £30K

2020 – £10K

Estimated monthly income required after property costs

£700.00

Add or Minus money I’d need to pay of outstanding mortgage/ rental income I’d receive

2016 – £300

2017 – £200

2018 – £000

2019 +£100 (need to earn £600/ month)

2020 +£300 (need to earn £400/ month)

Option 5 – Downsize and Buy a House Boat.

As above with downsizing, and then you can pick up a nice houseboat for £30K – I’ve added on £200/ month to cost of living to reflect costs such as licence fees, and mooring fees. This might actually be more. I’m not likely to do this in 2018, but living on a canal boat is just something I need to do for a period in my life at some point, thus I’m including it. Preferably I’ll be able to keep moving for much of the year to avoid the mooring fees!

In conclusion 

It is financially viable for me to quit my job this year and still retire early but it’s optimal in ERE terms to wait until 2021. A reasonable compromise in my noggin is to hold out until 2018.

Early Retirement Progress Update 2016

January 2016 And I’m now one year in to my 7-10 year plan to (semi-) retire by the time I’m 51, and ambitiously by 48. This is the second of my intended 6 monthly updates, this allows enough time to show clear progress (hopefully rather than regress) and also these things to take quite a lot of time to review.

Executive Summary

  • Total Net Wealth gain of £27000 in 2015

  • Net wealth gain excluding equity – £9000

  • Average total monthly expenditure not including mortgage – £930

  • Average monthly savings of – £536

  • Average savings to expenditure ratio – 62% (if I include mortgage payments)

  • Overall I give myself 8/10 – For once I’m actually going to focus on the fact that I’m doing most things right, rather than the few things I could improve on.

Reminder of Original Long Term Financial Goals – Updates in Italics, YEARS COUNTED FROM JAN 2015. 

  • Be mortgage free in 7-10 years (£133K outstanding)

  • Pay over £1000 a month towards the mortgage (15 year term) with a mind to either using savings or ‘trading down’ to pay off early.

I’m easily on track to do this in 10 years if I stay put in my flat in Surrey. However, the £140 I pay (in reality it’s probably more) towards service charge every month is becoming increasingly insulting, and so I’m looking at ‘downsizing’ to a house in a poorer area and commuting to work, POSSIBLY BY 2018.

  • Save £200 a month towards a ‘land fund’ – eventually to be used to purchase a van and land on which to establish a forest garden.

  • Save an absolute minimum of £250/ month in additional funds (=£30K after 10 years, without accumulations). Ideally this figure will be significantly higher.

In analytical terms I now treat these the same. I’ve done quite well here – my average overall savings each month is £537 – I made the decision in November to shove £140/ month into teacher’s AVCs, I’ve now decided to reverse that – I can’t access them until I’m 55 – what was I thinking?

NB The reason I keep banging on about land is because land squatting is a key part of my ERE strategy.

  • Find additional income streams to boost the above figure. Target = £20K in five years.

I’ve finally made some progress here – early days, more on this later as it develops.

  • Continue paying into the Teacher Pension Scheme.

It’s not quite a no-brainer to keep paying into this, but it still makes sense. The amount I pay in has increased, and because of recent changes to the scheme I’m now stuck with a pension at 60 of around £7K/ year – everything I pay in from now on is not worth claiming until I’m 65 – If I claim my future contributions at 60, I lose 25% of the value of current and future contributions (what I’ve already got is protected, but then again I’m sure this could change under the nasties.)

Now onto the more detailed updates…

January 2016 Update One – Spending days compared to non-spending days

Spend Non Spend 2015

It was going so much better up until December – but still – I won by 11 days!

Jan-June 2015 Update Two – Expenditure and Savings Summary

  • Ratio of expenditure to income excluding mortgage –62% (down from 64% 6 month ave).

  • Ratio of expenditure to income including mortgage – 21% (down from 23% 6 month ave).

ave monthly savings and expenditure

  • Frivolities = beer/ coffee/ subscriptions/ transport, (because I only really use transport for entertainment rather than work).

  • Necessities = council tax, services, food, ‘stuff’.

  • Property = mortgage repayments + service charge.

NB For calculating the above savings to expenditure ratio I always count service charge (an outrageous £140/month) as ‘expenditure’ but for the first calculation I count mortgage payments as savings because in the future my flat will act as an investment which will bring in an income (while I squat in a field).

Technically I should count the interest part of this as expenditure and the repayment as investment, but honestly I can’t be bothered to work this out and recalculate it every month as the repayments change, so stuff that! Just reduce the figure by a few percentage points if you’re uncomfortable with it.

January- June 2015 Update Three – Total average monthly expenditure excluding mortgage more detailed breakdown

This is really the headline figure – and it comes out at £930/ month, or £11K/ year – This is an honest account of how much I will need in retirement to live extremely comfortably. The service charge is something which is going to disappear hopefully very soon, but I figure the future cost of running a van which I currently don’t have will come out around the same amount of £140 a month, maybe more, so I’ll stick with £900 a month to live off. I’ve factored in £700 a month for my monthly retirement budget – this covers all of my necessities and allows £50 for ‘frivolities’ – so the idea is that Ill either need to suffer or do some kind of work to pay for me beers in retirement. Then again, that probably won’t be necessary as I’ll be enlightened by that point, and just naturally high on the joy of life.

average monthly expenditure 2015

Of course if I can pull off a land-squat my services costs will fall drastically, as will my food costs, so all of this could come down to nearer £5-600 in future. Whether that’s sustainable or not remains to be seen!

NB – The obvious immediate area for improvement besides service charge (PAIN!) is beer, I intend to hammer this down from September.

January Update 4 – Total Net Wealth

Well I’ve gained £27K TNW in the last year, but most of that’s equity, only £9K gained not including equity – still, that’s enough accumulated in one year to live for approx 1 year and 1 month. 

I’ve basically got £32k to either go towards an early retirement fund or blow on some land to set up a land squat. Not bad for the end of year one!

It’s kind of comforting to know that that’s enough to buy some kind of Quinta in Portugal – I’ve even taken off £4K from the figure to factor in a contribution to selling up and moving on in case it comes to that! It also doesn’t include a small emergency fund I’ve got stashed away.

So all in all, I’m on track to achieve my ERE goals, I could do better, but I think this not so extreme route to retirement (land squatting aside) is sustainable!

If you like this sort of thing – then why not my book – 

Early Retirement Strategies for the Average Income Earner, or A Critique of Curiously Ordinary Life of the Everyday Worker-Consumer

Available on iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble – Only £0.63 ($0.99)

extreme early retirement

Also available on Amazon, but for £1.99 because I’d get a much lower cut if I charged less!

On Permaculture as a Low-Cost Lifestyle

I’ve just spent half an hour perusing the Annual Monitoring Report for Tir y Gafel Ecovillage (aka Lammas).

I don’t imagine this would float a lot of boats, but as I expected it’s striking just how low their outgoings are. Here’s the annual figures for what I’m assuming must be the two single person households on site (given that they’re a lot lower than the other households).

Plot C Plot F
Cost of need Met from land Cost of need Met from land
domestic wood use £650.00 £650.00 £300.00 £245.00
domstic gas use £108.00 £0.00 £90.00 £0.00
domestic electricity use £1,291.00 £1,291.00 £1,168.00 £1,110.00
Water £506.00 £506.00 £385.00 £385.00
Food £3,466.00 £700.00 £1,800.00 £642.00
Phone £156.00 £0.00 £350.00 £0.00
clothes £0.00 £0.00 £40.00 £0.00
maintenance £0.00 £0.00 £35.00 £0.00
council tax £0.00 £0.00 £0.00 £0.00
transport £1,000.00 £0.00 £1,000.00 £0.00
Expenditure met from land* £3,147.00 £2,382.00
£ from land based enterprises £1,700.00 £1,740.00
Totals £7,177.00 £4,847.00 £5,168.00 £4,122.00
Further monies required to break even £2,330.00 £1,406.00

*before income from land based enterprises is taken into account 

After housing costs (which are not included above) we have two annual expenditure figures of £7K and £5K, with THE single largest expenditure item being on food, which here includes alcohol and munchies (which is odd given that food growing is one of the key things Lammas seems to do.)

Expenditure is clearly kept incredibly low by virtue of electricity being generated on site through burning wood and use of other renewable sources and transport being minimal due to mainly working on site, as well as the fact that above two people must live in caravans given the zero figure for council tax.

There are items which are not included in the above table, but no matter, what this data strongly suggests is that once you’ve got your mortgage paid off you can get by on £5-7K in a year as a base income, and this comes down to £2-3 K a year if you can get your own electricity generated on site.

A final advantage shown by this example is that it is clearly possible to generate some (albeit limited) money from rural enterprise.

I’m actually staggered by the above figures. I mean, I always knew low-impact living significantly reduced dependence on money, but this has surprised me… £2-3K a year is really a startling figure, actually £5-7K a year is pretty good.

At some point I’ll add in how this compares to my own expenditure and insane (consumerism as usual expenditure).

The question in the meantime is simply one of how can I get a piece of this action and how soon, just without the community bit, in which case apparently it’s not really Permaculture, but then again I’m sure the definition’s open for debate (at least as long as you don’t want to formally use it to engage in the Permaculture Pyramid selling scheme.)

Early Retirement Extreme June Update Analysis II

Or on how getting into early-retirement makes you dislike the curiously ordinary life of the worker-consumer even more intensely, and how it makes you hate yourself for any remaining traces of normality.

When I started out nearly 12 months ago I originally planned to work for another 7-8 years before ‘moving on’. However at some point over the last year I’ve become desperate to escape work, to the extent that I was, a couple of weeks back, looking to get out in 18 months. The interesting thing is that, on reflection, this urgency doesn’t have that much to do with work, which (although subjecting me to severe psychological abuse 200 days of the year) hasn’t got that much worse in the last 6 months. Thus my increased desire to escape it has probably got more to do with getting the ERE bug. I think the effect goes something like this –

  1. You set yourself an early retirement goal – In my case originally 52.

  1. You start recording in religious detail your expenditure and savings and getting a bit obsessive over the maths of early retirement.

  1. You realise that if you can shave 10% of your expenditure here and there then it means you can retire another year earlier, or 20% another 2 years early, and retiring at 48 sounds a whole lot better than retiring at 50, and 8 years sounds much better than 10.

  1. Saving everything you can means you have much less of a life than previously – there are less vents for the frustrations of work.

  1. (When you have little extra time after work) trying to generate second income streams proves largely fruitless in the grand scheme of things, this creates more stress.

  1. A stressful life means you want to get out!

  1. You start comparing yourself to other early retirement aspirees and get competitive, wanting to bring the key date down.

  1. Very importantly you realise the extent to which you’re being shafted by the system. These points are kind of in chronological order, but this is the most important one I think. This annoys you – a lot – my particular bug bears are interest on the mortgage and service charge on my flat.

  1. You start to look around for alternatives to get the above charges down and land-squatting comes up as the favorable option to be put into effect immediately – so this means you may as well jack in work and become a postmodern peasant asap. This doesn’t sound very appealing at the moment, which creates yet more stress.

In fairness, the original drive to retire early was brought on by the fact that my job is doing me severe psychological damage, and has also turned me into an agent which inflicts harm on others, and I will need to escape from in the medium term, but the job does come with good holidays and is well below my intellectual capacity to manage, and so I do have the mental capacity to cope with this abuse for another 5 years, especially when the income’s good and my original retirement model based on a 7-8 year projection (OK I have shortened it a little!) results in such a comfortable retirement, so I’m led to conclude that my recent desire to get out and retire even earlier is simply because of getting caught up in the goal of ERE, rather than accepting that my current situation is OK, and that a medium term plan is manageable. In short, I probably don’t need to ‘move on’ in 18 months.

Here’s a modified 5 year plan to address the above:

  1. I still want out in five (academic) years. I’ve calculated this means another 925 days at work from September next year. This is realistic, then I’ll downsize, move out of the area and go part time at age 47.

  1. Realise that I have no money to do anything and get into ‘doing nothing’ in the evenings – cleaning the flat, meditating,working the allotment, the odd Sociology blog, that’s it for the next five years.

  1. Abandon for now the second income streams most of them are too much like work(do these later) and instead focus on developing resilience (ie land squatting) skills. Work out a five year plan to develop these skills – this should be fun.

  1. Give up screens – Searching for alternatives means I’ve spent way too long on YouTube looking at compost showers and so on…. It’s doing my head in.

  1. Just chilax.

Early Retirement Extreme UK Update 2 – June 2015

Fingers crossed this formats OK, I just cut and paste the job-lot straight from Open Office, pictures and all.

End of June – And I’m now sixth months in to my 7-10 year plan to (semi-) retire by the time I’m 51, and ambitiously by 48. This is the first of my intended 6 monthly updates, this allows enough time to show clear progress (hopefully rather than regress) and also these things to take quite a lot of time to review.

Executive Summary

  • Total Net Wealth gain of £13300 (since Februrary 2015)

  • Average total monthly expenditure not including mortgage – £903

  • Averge monthly savings of – £557

  • Average savings to expenditure ratio – 64% (if I include mortgage payments)

  • Overall I give myself 8/10 – For once I’m actually going to focus on the fact that I’m doing most things right, rather than the few things I could improve on.

Reminder of Original Long Term Financial Goals – Updates in Italics

  • Be mortgage free in 7-10 years (£137K outstanding)

  • Pay over £1000 a month towards the mortgage (15 year term) with a mind to either using savings or ‘trading down’ to pay off early.

I’m easily on track to do this in 10 years if I stay put in my flat in Surrey. However, the £140 I pay (in reality it’s probably more) towards service charge every month is becoming increasingly insulting, and so I’m looking at ‘downsizing’ to a house in a poorer area and commuting to work, possibly as soon as the end of 2016.

  • Save £200 a month towards a ‘land fund’ – eventually to be used to purchase a van and land on which to establish a forest garden.

The ‘Land Fund’ is simply an investment account – I use Fundsmith, which I can thoroughly recommend – It’s now worth about £12K – and it gained £3K in value in the last 6 months – yes, that’s right, a 25% gain in 6 months – NB this isn’t a high risk fund, in fact, quite the opposite! Based on these figures I’m actually tempted just to leave it untouched and live off the income generated in my late 50s.

  • Save an absolute minimum of £250/ month in additional funds (=£30K after 10 years, without accumulations). Ideally this figure will be significantly higher.

I‘ve done quite well here – my average overall savings each month is £577 – I put £200 into the ‘land fund’ so that means my overall ‘other savings’ work out at £377/ month without accumulations. I’ve actually got £17K kicking about which is enough (just) to buy a small piece of raw land already, although it is extremely rare to find exactly what I want for this kind of price. If I could double this to £30K I’d have much more chance.

NB The reason I keep banging on about land is because land squatting is a key part of my ERE strategy.

  • Find additional income streams to boost the above figure. Target = £20K in five years.

I’ve realised I am not realistically going to generate any significant second income streams in my spare time, basically because I don’t have any spare time. (It’s actually quite interesting that it’s taken me sixth months to realise this, or maybe it’s about acceptance – I can’t actually do any more than I’m already doing without compromising my mental health). Thinking about it, this amazing piece of insight might just be more valuable than any financial gains I’ve made.

  • Continue paying into the Teacher Pension Scheme.

It’s not quite a no-brainer to keep paying into this, but it still makes sense. The amount I pay in has increased, and because of recent changes to the scheme I’m now stuck with a pension at 60 of around £7K/ year – everything I pay in from now on is not worth claiming until I’m 65 – If I claim my future contributions at 60, I lose 25% of the value of current and future contributions (what I’ve already got is protected, but then again I’m sure this could change under the nasties.)

Now onto the more detailed updates…

June Update One – Spending days compared to non-spending days

Early Retirement UK

I know it says nothing about how much I actually save/ spend but these are a great little invention! No spending days have prevented me from buying several superfluous coffees, munchies, and stopped silly trips to Poundland and Wilkinson’s. I can’t put an exact figure on it but I reckon a saving of somewhere in the region of £20-50 a month?.

Jan-June 2015 Update Two – Expenditure and Savings Summary

  • Ratio of expenditure to income excluding mortgage – 64%

  • Ratio of expenditure to income including mortgage – 23%

NB For calculating the above savings to expenditure ratio I always count service charge (an outrageous £140/month) as ‘expenditure’ but for the first calculation I count mortgage payments as savings because in the future my flat will act as an investment which will bring in an income (while I squat in a field).

Technically I should count the interest part of this as expenditure and the repayment as investment, but honestly I can’t be bothered to work this out and recalculate it every month as the repayments change, so stuff that! Just reduce the figure by a few percentage points if you’re uncomfortable with it.

Early Retirement UK

  • Frivolities = beer/ coffee/ subscriptions/ transport, (because I only really use transport for entertainment rather than work).

  • Necessities = council tax, services, food, ‘stuff’.

  • Property = mortgage repayments + service charge.

January- June 2015 Update Three – Total average monthly expenditure excluding mortgage more detailed breakdown

This is really the headline figure – and it comes out at just over £900/ month, or £11K/ year – This is an honest account of how much I will need in retirement to live extremely comfortably. The service charge is something which is going to disappear hopefully very soon, but I figure the future cost of running a van which I currently don’t have will come out around the same amount of £140 a month, maybe more, so I’ll stick with £900 a month to live off.

Early Retirement UK

Of course if I can pull off a land-squat my services costs will fall drastically, as will my food costs, so all of this could come down to nearer £5-600 in future. Whether that’s sustainable or not remains to be seen!

NB – The obvious immediate area for improvement besides service charge (PAIN!) is beer, I intend to hammer this down from September.

January Update 4 – Total Net Wealth

Well I’ve gained £13300 in 5 months – I’m happy with that, hence the 8/10!

This is what it’s all about! Remember, £200K is enough to semi-retire on! IMO anyone who already has more than £200K of TNW and is still in full-time work either really likes working, or if that isn’t the case suffers from a compulsive disorder (addicted to over-consumption) and/ or lacks imagination.

I don’t feel particularly comfortable posting details about my TNW, but it comes in at £101K including property – Half way to what I need. Rapidly may this increase!!!

It’s kind of comforting to know that that’s enough to buy some kind of Quinta in Portugal – I’ve even taken off £4K from the figure to factor in a contribution to selling up and moving on in case it comes to that! It also doesn’t include a small emergency fund I’ve got stashed away.

So all in all, I’m on track to achieve my ERE goals, I could do better, but I think this not so extreme route to retirement (land squatting aside) is sustainable!

If you like this sort of thing – then why not my book which is more focused on early retirement in the UK?

Early Retirement Strategies for the Average Income Earner, or A Critique of Curiously Ordinary Life of the Everyday Worker-Consumer

Available on iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble – Only £0.63 ($0.99)

extreme early retirement

Also available on Amazon, but for £1.99 because I’d get a much lower cut if I charged less!

Bauman’s Consuming Life Summary – Chapter Two – The Society of Consumers

Bauman’s Consuming Life A Summary – Chapter 2 – The Society of Consumers

Summary of chapter One 

A fairly lengthy, paraphrased summary with a few comments in italics
In consumer culture people behave ‘unreflexively’ – without thinking about what they consider to be their life purpose and what they believe to be the right means of reaching it, without thinking about about what prompts them into action or escape, or about what they desire, what they fear and at what point fears and desires balance each other out

Nb – In defining consumers as unreflexive – that is, anyone who limits their conscious reflection to questions of what to consume- rather than focusing on the ‘deeper’ questions of life – Bauman seems to deny that such people have any sense of agency – they are not fully human. 

The society of consumers stands for a set of existential conditions under which the probability is high that most people will embrace the consumerist rather than any other culture, and obey its rules.

The ‘society of consumers’ is a kind of society which ‘interpellates’ its members primarily in their capacity as consumers. While doing that, ‘society’ expects to be heard, listened to and obeyed; it evaluates – rewards and penalizes – its members depending on the promptness and propriety of their response to the interpellation.

As a result, one’s ability to engage in consumerist performance has become the paramount stratifying factor and the principal criterion of inclusion in or exclusion from society, as well as guiding the distribution of social esteem and stigma, and shares in public attention.

(Following Frank Trentmann) This is historically unusual – for most of the modern period consumption was little discussed and when it was it was typically associated with eccentricity and wastefulness.

For the better part of modern history (that is, throughout the era of massive industrial plants and massive conscript armies), society ‘interpellated’ most of the male half of its members as primarily producers and soldiers, and almost all of the other (female) half as first and foremost their by-appointment purveyors of services.

It was the body of the would-be worker or soldier that counted most; their spirit, on the other hand, was to be silenced, numbed and thereby ‘deactivated’.

The society of consumers, on the other hand, focuses its training and coercing pressures on the management of the spirit – leaving the manage- meant of bodies to individually undertaken DIY labour, individually supervised and coordinated by spiritually trained and coerced individuals.

This coercive pressure is exerted on members of the society of consumers from their early childhood.. Following Daniel Thomas Cooke…

‘the battles waged over and around children’s consumer culture are no less than battles over the nature of the person and the scope of personhood in the context of the ever-expanding reach of commerce.’

The society of consumers does not recognize differences of age or gender (however counter-factually) and will not make allowances for either; nor does it (blatantly counter-factually) recognize class distinctions. From the geographic centres of the worldwide network of information highways to its furthest, however impoverished peripheries…

‘the poor are forced into a situation in which they either have to spend what little money or resources they have on senseless consumer objects rather than basic necessities in order to deflect total social humiliation or face the prospect of being teased and laughed at.’ (In Ekstrom et al, Elusive Consumption, 2004.)

However it is down to the individual to negotiate the staggering amount of info in order to make the right consumer decisions to avoid derision.
Since ‘social fitness’ is the responsibility of the individual, if people fail to make the right choices they are blamed (and thus constructed as ‘flawed consumers’) – we are taught to believe that there is nothing wrong with society, because there is plenty of choice, and so if people fail to succeed they are not deserving of care.

At least the above is the case if we are unreflexive viz our consumption habits.

Consumption is an investment in everything that matters for individual ‘social value’ and self-esteem, thus the crucial, perhaps the decisive purpose of consumption in the society of consumers is not the satisfaction of needs, desires and wants, but the commoditization or recommoditization of the consumer: raising the status of consumers themselves to that of sellable commodities.

If you wish to take part in society, you have to consume in this way – turning yourself into a commodity – this is a precondition which is non negotiable thus market relations are fundamental to the society of consumers, as is the calculating mindset which goes along with it.

I’m left wondering what Bauman would make of attempts to set up alternative, low impact cultures assisted by alternative financial avenues such as Kick Starter?

Becoming and remaining a sellable commodity is the most potent motive of consumer concerns, even if it is usually latent and seldom conscious, let alone explicitly declared.
The society of consumers, with its compulsive and willing individualization places a magnified emphasis on the on the subject as the one who has the duty to make oneself something, and on the individual as being the one who is responsible if one fails.
NB – I guess to simplify one of Bauman’s basic points you could just say that we believe that we are responsible for own successes and failures in life only because that is what society tells us, and this isn’t necessarily true.
In the society of producers, society took on the role of a ‘collective Prometheus’ – it took responsibility for the product in exchange for the individual conforming to social norms. If you just ‘became’ what society asked of you’ that was enough – your Promethean challenge, and sense of of Promethean pride could thus be earned if you fulfilled your social role.
However, in the age of individualisation, now that society ‘doesn’t exist’ (TINA) just becoming what society wants is no longer an option – ( in the consumer society the point, the task, is to continually become something else)
Being born, having become something are now sources of ‘Promethean shame’ and the task of the individual is to perfect themselves – to become more than they are, and there is never an end to this process… life is a never ending struggle of becoming.
Because of this, being a member of the society of consumers is a daunting task, a never-ending and uphill struggle. The fear of failing to conform has been elbowed out by a fear of inadequacy, and consumer markets are eager to capitalize on that fear, and companies turning out consumer goods vie for the status of the most reliable guide and helper in their clients’ unending effort to rise to the challenge. They supply ‘the tools’, the instruments required by the individually performed job of ‘self-fabrication’.
However, following Gunder Anders, it is absurd to think of those tools as enabling an individual choice of purpose. These instruments are the crystallization of irresistible ‘necessity’ – which individuals must learn to obey, in order to be free.
Cites teen fashion as an example.
I’d be interested in looking at the social construction of retirement in this… to what extent is retirement constructed as a time when we are expected to ‘consume hard’? Does all of this end then?


There are two versions of human history – That of life as a progression towards greater rationality and freedom, of which consumer choice is the latest ‘highest’ expression, the other is of the increasing colonisation of human life by commodity markets – the society of consumers is its zenith because humans are now obliged to interact with eachother at the same level as the products they consume (as explained above) – they purchase products in order to maximise their own market-value and they have no choice but to do so.
NB – I get the impression that Bauman sides with the later version.
Markets today are sovereign, you only get political rights if you are able to consume – people such as the underclass and illegal immigrants (flawed consumers) are seen as having no rights in the popular imagination, and there is no authority they can appeal to because the state’s ability to draw the line between the included and the excluded has been eroded by the market – it now makes these decisions, and it has no tangible body that can be appealed to if people feel unfairly excluded.
In recent decades the state has shifted many of its functions sideways to the market such that the state has now become the arbiter of market demands, evidence in the centrality of economic measurements as the state’s primary indicators of its ‘success’.

The secret of every durable (successfully self-reproducing) social system is the recasting of its ‘functional prerequisits’ into behavioural motives of actors – the secret is making individuals wish to do what is needed for the system to reproduce itself.
In the modern period, this required an emphasis on deferred gratification – people committing to the idea of putting off pleasure now in order to reap the rewards in the future.
We also see in the general theories of the time – such as Freud’s reality principle and in Bentham’s panopticon – that the good society could only be constructed with the individual’s subordination to the society.
(However, such theories were themselves a product of the crisis of community – the very fact that people were thinking about community demonstrates that community is no longer ‘taken for granted’ as it was in traditional times, and because of this, it was already losing its power as a coercive force).
Much of the modern period thus involved nation states vying to restrict freedom of choice through panopticon style discipline and punish rule, but this was always cumbersome.

In the post-modern era (mistakenly conceived as a decivilising process) the civilising process takes the form of the ‘obligation to choose’ but this breeds little resistance because it is represented and conceived as freedom of choice.
People now are obliged to seek happiness and pleasure and this is lived through as an exercise of ‘freedom’ and self-assertion. Today it is as if the (individualised) pleasure principle has taken over the reality principle as the primary regulating force in society. (Reminds me of happiness is mandatory.)
When society confronts us (which it rarely does as a totality, these days) it does so in ways which make it easy for us to act as solitary consumers… (rather than in large collectivities). Bauman now gives several examples of this:

  • As mentioned earlier on in the chapter, this starts with childhood
  • At university, the new future-elite of consumers are socialised into the norm of living on credit (phase one)
  • At home we have TV dinners and fast food, which protect solitary consumers.
  • The primary acts of consumption are done in swarms – groups who come together for limited times with loose connections.
  • Elsewhere Bauman has also written about the nature of shopping malls, privatised public spaces of individualised consumption.
  • Even our post-modern ‘collective’ carnivalesque acts reinforce individualism – we come together in fringe moments to get our ‘collective’ fix and then go back to being individuals again .. ..

 

The chapter finishes with something about tax cuts to the rich and shifting taxation away from income to expenditure which doesn’t make much sense in the context of the chapter.

Why Do We Waste So Much Food in the UK?

Why does the average person waste so much food?

See previous post on this topic – Stats on Food Waste in the UK

According to the WRAP (2012) survey two reasons account for 80% of food wasted in the home –

  • Just under half of avoidable food and drink waste (worth £5.6 billion) was classified as ‘not used in time’: thrown away because it had either gone off or passed the date on the packaging. This included large amounts of bread, milk and fresh potatoes.
  • A further 31% (worth £4.1 billion) was classified as ‘cooked, prepared or served too much’: this included food and drink that had been left over after preparation or serving, such as carbonated soft drinks, home-made and pre-prepared meals, and cooked potatoes.
  • The remaining reasons are linked to personal preferences including health reasons and not liking certain foods (£1.9 billion), and accidents, including ‘food dropped on the floor’ and ‘failure of a freezer’ (£560 million).

Of course what the survey fails to look at is what food waste reveals about our culture. Here I’d suggest the following ‘deeper-level’ reasons for there being so much food waste…

  1. ‘Food materialism and choice culture’ – I’m sure many people overbuy during a weekly shop simply because of the attraction of a full-trolley and a well stocked fridge. Then there’s the fear of running out choice – Technically if you shop once a week, say on a Saturday, you would end up with a limited choice of meal on a Friday. We do live in a materialist culture which offers us lots of never ending choices, surely the number one reason for the over-purchasing of food is simply the unconscious replication of a (moneyless) supermarket in your kitchen?

  2. Throw away culture – straight from my current favourite Sociologist – Z. Bauman – argues that the way we distinguish ourselves today is the rapidity with which we can use things up and then discard them – While I don’t think this quite appeals to our approach to food (I’m sure it’s generally regarded as shameful to throw away food), the fact that we are used to generating waste as part of our consumerist norms is hardly going to do anything to put us off throwing away food.

  3. What I call the ‘Masterchef effect’ – Buying particular items to make a particular recipe, not quite using all of the items bought and lacking the ingenuity to innovate around left-overs, resulting in bits of food getting thrown away. The more complex the recipe, the more obscure ingredients to throw away next week.

  4. Occasional ‘top up buying’ in order to satisfy whimsical desires for a particular meal – which means what you’ve already got in the fridge goes off. We do live in a culture of instant-gratification after all, so if I want stir fry tonight and pizza tomorrow and this means throwing away yesterday’s pasta the day after tomorrow, then wtf not?!

  5. Hurried Lives – meaning we either don’t have the time or the energy to cook so we have beans on toast instead, meaning the fresh veg goes off. On the occasion I do waste food, this is my number one reason…

  6. It’s not exactly a causal factor, just a perpetuating one: it’s hardly in the government’s interest to clamp down on food waste. The agri-food sector contributed £97.1 billion or 7.4% to national Gross Value Added in 2012. We may well throw £12 billion of this in the bin every year, but I’m sure it doesn’t cost that much to take it to land fill. If we didn’t throw away this food, then demand would fall and we’d lose 1% of our GVA. That’s a massive chunk of cash. Actually it’s more than the entire International Aid Budget.

What’s above are just a few Sociological meanderings on the matter of Food Waste, comments welcome…

Food Waste in the UK

Food Waste in the United Kingdom

The average person will spend £16 000 over the course of their lifetime on food which they will then throw away. That’s getting on for one year’s worth of wages on the median salary once taxes are taken into account.

In 2012, 15% of edible food and drink purchases were wasted at an estimated cost of £480 per year for an average household. This figure includes domestic shopping and meals out. If you divide this by 2.4 (the average number of people in a household) and multiply by 81.5 (average Life Expectancy) then this means the average person will spend just under £16 000 over the course of their lifetime on food which will be wasted.

Of food brought into the household (excluding waste generated by supermarkets and restaurants etc), £12.5 billion was wasted in 2012.

Avoidable food waste UK

By cost, the largest food groups wasted were:

  • Meat and fish (17%; £2.1 billion).
  • Home-made and pre-prepared meals (17%; £2.1 billion).
  • Fresh vegetables and salad (14%; £1.7 billion).
  • Drink (10%; £1.3 billion).
  • Fresh fruit (7%; £900 million).

Cost of Food Waste UK

On a day to day basis this means in the UK we throw away…

  • 1.4 million bananas
  • 1.5 million tomatoes
  • 1.2 million yogurts
  • 24 million slices of bread

Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the economic inefficiency of our food strategies. Some of the food we eat is effectively wasted because it simply goes towards making us overwight (37% of UK adults) or obese (25% of the UK adults). This then means we spend additional resources on diet regimes and gym memberships in order to lose said weight, or we pay more collectively through the NHS to deal with higher rates of weight-related illnesses.

Finally, one could say that the way we source our food is also inefficient – We only grow 53% of our food supply within the UK (I say only, I actually thought it was nearer to 40%) which means we also bear the cost of international food miles where imports are concerned. (Although in fairness, much of this comes from Europe, parts of which are not much further away than parts of the UK are from each other.)

Related Posts –

Why does the average person waste so much food?

Sources Used

DEFRA – Food Statistics Pocketbook 2013

WRAP – Household food and drink waste in the United Kingdom