December 2019 Report and End of Year Round-Up

But time is lost , which never will renew 

2019 has all but gone. Years pass and go all the time, but there is something about the turning of a new year that allows reflection and contemplation. In my previous post ‘Rudolph, Overthrower of Titans’, we discussed that the new replacing the old is a core idea that goes back as far as time itself, even back to the idea of Zeus overthrowing Cronus for rule of Olympus.

Now the new year is almost here, this could be seen as time for reflection. There is some credit in this (as long as it doesn’t become rumination) but this has to be coupled with the acceptance that this time has gone and cannot be retrieved. In my eyes this period of time is better used in deciding to move with purpose into the new year. The very fact that you are reading an early retirement lifestyle blog means that you at least want to start making a change in your life. A new year is typically a time to set goals, but there are so many more goals to aim for than the long game of financial independence. I’ll be thinking of some in the coming months.

I hope you all had a restful break, with plenty of quality time spent with the people you love. The winter break was busy for me, with lots of travelling and seeing loved ones.

Onto the December and end of year report. The first announcement is that my ISA value crested £50k in the third week in December, largely due to a last minute market rally. This means I hit my target without having to add any additional funds, and I have reached 25% of the target otium fund.

Side Income

As most are probably aware, I’m currently using matched betting as a way to bring in some extra side income. If you haven’t yet tried matched betting, take a look at my article ‘14 Months of Matched Betting‘ to see if it might be for you. I use Profit Accumulator* to help find offers and I also make use of their tools quite regularly.

I made £311 in December – on reflection I am happy with this, considering I stopped for the last week or two. It was initially a lot higher but a particular casino offer dragged it down. The total was comprised of £221 from casino offers and £137 from sports offers.

Yearly Review

In total the matched betting profits reached £9,267 for the year. This is short of my £10k target, but my indifference to not hitting this target has never been greater. I’m pleased with the progress this year and fate permitting I will come back just as strong in 2020.

Matched Betting Profits 2019 – Sports & Casino (Top), Casino Profits and Expected Value vs Number of Offers Completed (Bottom)
Blog Launch

I started this blog in the Autumn of this year, as a way of chronicling my progress. This was a big step forward from an idea that started many years ago. I’ve followed many blogs in my life and as far as I can remember I’ve always wanted to start one. Maybe it’s because I’m naturally reserved, I enjoyed writing and I wanted a voice.

I only really started reading personal finance blogs about 12 years ago. This started with the blog ‘The Richest Man in Atherstone’ by Arkad. His concept was to double his way to riches. I’m not sure whether Arkad ever made it to be the richest man (this blog is no longer live), but it certainly influenced me. At this point I was in my mid-twenties, but I hadn’t really converted.

For some reason the message didn’t really sink in until I came across the blogs of the usual suspects in the FI/RE space around mid 2015, and thereafter I subscribed to the doctrine immediately.

Even for the awakened, there is normally a long period of time to wait for complete financial freedom. There will be many contortions in the path, some of which will create more joy than you can imagine and some of which may appear to blacken the view entirely. In this blog I can combine the two areas of thought which I enjoy the most: philosophy and personal finance.

Ancient thought can lend a lot more to modern day life than most people acknowledge. My aim for the upcoming year is to expose some of these ideas and how they apply to those who are on the path to seeking a better life.

Let Me Know Your Thoughts!

This blog is in it’s infancy, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please use the comments form below to give feedback, or let me know how your year has been.

* Affiliate link

Rudolph, Overthrower of Titans

Time is the biggest help and the biggest threat to financial independence. In my previous blog entry (An’ live off the fatta the lan’), we discussed that gathering this much wealth is a huge undertaking and can (and probably will) take decades. During this time your resolve will be tested and you will have to make many decisions about your priorities.

They say the best time to invest is 20 years ago. This quote is steeped in the knowledge of compound interest and the history of returns of the stock market. If you subscribe to this, the only real thing you can do is minimise expenses, invest the rest and wait a long time. The solution is so simple, but so few make it all the way.

The passing of long periods of time has always been difficult for us to accept as a species. People get old and are subsequently replaced by the new. The universe is in constant change and the things that happen to us are nearly impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy.

The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Although time itself is predictable, we struggle to really comprehend its passage fully. However, we do understand that sometimes a fresh start is needed, or there needs to be a change of perspective in order to see things more clearly. This is why the turning of a new year comes with resolutions and good intentions abound.

A New Year

In the 1976 film “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year”, Santa receives a message from Father time, who warns him that the New Year is in danger and asks for help. The baby New Year is missing and in fear of the current year repeating ad infinitum, Santa dispatches Rudolph to find the baby New Year and save the day.

Father Time and the Baby New Year

Chronos is one of the primordial deities in Greek mythology and is the personification of time. He is often pictured as a ‘Father Time’ figure, but perhaps due to confusion his name became synonymous with the Titan Chronus, god of the harvest. He was also often pictured with a scythe, which Chronus used to dispose of his father Uranus.

The idea of the new replacing the old has been told literally as long as time itself. The Titan Cronus was father of the Olympians and had swallowed them all to prevent a pre-destined event where his son would kill him, just as he had done to his own father. He swallowed every one of his children except for Zeus, whom Rhea had replaced with a stone.

Zeus eventually grew up to overthrow Cronus, and this story of Father Time being replaced by the Younger Year (in this case the Baby New Year) was born into folklore.  So “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year” turns out to be really a story of Rudolph helping Zeus overthrow Cronus for rule over Olympus.

As we roll over into a new year, remember that this is a new time and whatever you did in the last year is gone. Perhaps now is the time to invest more towards your financial goals. It might be about time that you stopped focussing on Financial Independence so much and start reading something different, learning a new hobby or spend more time with your family.

Time to Change?

I have a number of concerns about the upcoming year. I have grown out of my current job role and need to change to something that fits more with my strengths. This means a time of potential uncertainty and uprooting. To me this seems to now be crystallising into an inescapable fact. The exchange of security for a foray into the wide open job market seems ludicrous given the security I have, but is it really? I’ve survived career changes before and I’ll do it again.

It seems easy on the face of it to stay in the same job and regularly plough money into investments, but the reality is that life is complicated and this should be expected. I imagine that most people aiming for FI are unhappy in their jobs and so they reach for a lofty goal of escaping this stress from their lives entirely. The problem and the hard reality is the very act of working is what gets you there.

So work is inevitable, yes, but please do not link it to your happiness. It is merely a means to an end. There are plenty of jobs out there that earn enough for you to continue on your savings quest. Your happiness on the other hand is more complicated, more amorphous and more subjective. It is linked to your character, your love of life and what you make of it. It is linked to how fulfilled you are, and you have the ability to change that.

Io Saturnalia!

The ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia was held on 17th December, in honour of the god Saturn, who amongst other things was a god of wealth and plenty. Interestingly, he also over time became conflated with the Greek God Cronus, meaning that he has ever since also been known as the Roman god of time.

Here’s to a New Year, a new framing of your ideas and problems, and a new commitment to reflect and reassess what is truly important in your life.

An’ live off the fatta the lan’

Since I started pursuing early retirement I have continued in my full time job, but with an ever increasing desire for financial freedom. So much so that I check my investment accounts more often than I should and regularly dream about a day where I can just do whatever I like without any accountability. This is a tempting dream that I imagine many of us fall into.

Otium liberale

I have thought about the idea of otium for some time, and of a simple life of slowing down. I imagine this would be more of a contemplative pursuit; reading, writing and studying philosophy without having to deal with the demands of a job, which is really a huge time vacuum and for many of us can suck the enjoyment out of every day. Until you get home, then you have a discrete window of time available to do the other jobs of the day – tidying, cleaning, looking after kids. For the time being I have pseudo side-job which brings in extra money each month, which has turned out to be a hobby but it is also a means to an end. To really reach a point where otium could be a reality, I’ve probably got a fair way to go.

To raise enough money to declare yourself financially free is no mean feat. The vast majority of people get nowhere near it, even in the richest parts of the world. Without a healthy inheritance or a lottery win, the conventional early retirement advice for most people is to save a high percentage of their salary for a long time. High earners get away with a shorter sentence, but for most of us it’s still typically > 10 years. This is too long for us to really imagine as reality and so it’s likely that many of us fall into dreaming about the future in a favourable light.

Consistent Action in a Single Direction

The biggest obstacle to early retirement is either quitting early or becoming too obsessed with it that the rest of your life suffers. Our minds find it difficult to reconcile the disconnection between the money you have now and the money you deem to be enough to carry you through your retirement. This isn’t removed even once you’ve learned about the power of compound interest and you’ve read enough forum entries that it almost all seems possible. It turns out we are useless at predicting the future, and if we do, these predictions are almost always more positive than they turn out to be. Real life is messy and can get in the way.

What I tend to do is hover between two states – either I believe I’m never going to make it and focus on the long slog and how far away it seems, or I tend skip straight to the end, when I have several million pounds in the bank and I don’t have to work. Both are not good – we are designed to look for imperfections or potential traps that could endanger us, so for me at least, imagining and enjoying the exponential growth of my wealth seems alien. On the other hand imagining a perfect future is pure escapism on my behalf.

The Fat of The Land

If the future you imagine is better than what you have, then by definition you are not happy in some part with what you have now. You can come to terms with this or you can carry on imagining a future where your life will some day be better, like George repeatedly comforts Lennie with in the classic ‘Of Mice and Men’.

“O.K. Someday- we’re gonna get the jack together and we’re gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs and-”

“An’ live off the fatta the lan’,” Lennie shouted.

John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

The problem is that this level of thinking has got you to this point in the first place. The fact that you have dreamed it and have a solid plan for executing this dream has elevated you to ‘above-average’ in this context. You know what needs to be done and you are doing it. But there is nothing more you can do, because the plan is so simple. You can mess around with your investment strategy but really it is eclipsed by the impact of how much money you can save right now.

Practice of otium

In the ancient world an early retirement (or any retirement!) have been a privilege and would be compatible with the idea of otium, or a withdrawal from public affairs to pursue a more contemplative life. Contemplation is a difficult thing to do when you have kids and a full time job, but there are little areas of the day in which you can give some thought to why you want to do this, and frequently reminding yourself that you are taking action. Below are some ideas of what I would class as positive and negative behaviour towards this; of course there is no right or wrong and you can tailor it to your personality type.

Positive actions:

  • Learning philosophy, understanding different ways to look at the world and deciding for yourself what is worth working towards.
  • Looking at charts to make sure you are on track (monthly)
  • Setting yearly goals, but not being disturbed if you don’t hit them
  • Earning money on the side where possible
  • Reminding yourself that even by putting some effort into your retirement planning you are far ahead of most people.
  • Helping others that have discovered an interest in early retirement and pointing them in the right direction.

Negative actions:

  • Looking at your investment balance every day – I am guilty of this but it really makes no difference.
  • Talking too much about FI/RE to others – they probably don’t want to hear it and it will probably either make them feel inadequate or like you are boasting.
  • Thinking that you are better than others because you’ve discovered this idea that no-one else knows and you therefore think you deserve it more.
  • Don’t think that suddenly everything will become better once you are retired, as this is simply escapism.
There is no leisure for slaves

The hard reality is that some level of sacrifice (and living of life) is needed to achieve early retirement and for some this is difficult to come to terms with. Very few people get the privilege of everything handed to them on a plate or a huge inheritance, and do we really want to be one of those people anyway, given the many stories we’ve heard of how it corrupts people?

In Politics, Aristotle argues that “the necessaries of life have to be supplied before we can have leisure”, and points out that courage and endurance are key qualities that are required for both business and leisure. He also states that ‘leisure is necessary both for the development of virtue and the performance of political duties’.

This is more in line with the ethos in the early retirement community, particularly summed up by Mr Money Mustache with his line ‘work is better when you don’t need the money’.1

If you manage to find a meaning for your job outside of work, then you might as well be retired any way. Financial independence will just give you more time to work on it.

References

1. Mr Money Mustache – Full Talk at WDS 2016

November 2019 Report

November has been a good month for me, certainly in contrast to the last few months! My regular job income has been bolstered by some good profits from matched betting, meaning that I can put more in my ISA than I expected. Below is the amount contributed to savings for November.

  • ISA: £1,000 (£500 from salary + £500 from matched betting)
  • Regular Savings: £550

The markets I’m invested in have also performed reasonably well this month, bringing the otium fund total up to £48,400, which is 24% of the target total.

I’m in the process of writing a few blog posts but I won’t spoil the surprise! I’ve been quite busy of late with workloads at the office being unsustainably high. I’ve also spent a lot of time in the evening on the matched betting, which has led to a bumper month for me.

Side Income

The grand total from matched betting this month was £858! The number of offers completed were higher than usual, weighing in at 117 casino overs (47 more than last month) and 198 sports bets. The total made for the month on the casino offers was £403 from a total of £622 EV taken.

Casino Offers – November Profit and EV

Sports offers were where I really upped my game from last month, bringing in £456 and averaging around £2.30 per bet. Below is a breakdown of the bet types and profit

  • £205 from 2up offers
  • £60 from odds boosts
  • -£76 on qualifying bets for free bets or refunds
  • £218 from free bets
  • £49 from refunds

All in all I’m very pleased from the profit this month and it brings my total from matched betting up for £8,909 profit for the year since January.

Other Business

My overall aim for the last month of the year is to get my ISA value up to £50,000. I’m only £1,600 short but I think I’ve probably got enough reserves in my bookmaker and casino accounts to help account for some of this.

We’ve also made the last payment on our car (it was only a small loan in exchange for an extended warranty). This will mean there is an extra £200 in the coffers for the month and together with some matched betting profits (hopefully) and a buoyant market (again hopefully) the ISA can hopefully reach the £50,000 landmark.

I’m really enjoying working on this blog, and although it’s still in it’s infancy it really gives me somewhere to log my progress and give me some more accountability. This month I’m hoping to have some time to pull together some of the articles I’m working on. Meanwhile, let me know how you’ve been getting on!

October 2019 Report

Rain and busyness at work were the key themes of this month; but there is joy in everything if you wish to look for it. Being busy at work meant the days in the office went faster and because I was looking for a distraction in the evenings I managed to dedicate more time to side income and working on this blog. Total savings this month:

  • ISA: £1,800
  • Regular savings: £550

This brings the total up to £46,500 which is approximately 23% of my otium fund target.

Side Income

Unfortunately matched betting this month wasn’t very fruitful and I only managed to make £90 in total. I did 70 casino offers totalling about £350 EV, and just over £100 of sports offers. The sports offers counteracted my losses – I was in negative territory for a while but managed to mostly pull it back.

Casino Offers – October Profit and EV

This brings me to around £8,075 for the year so far, only £2,000 below my target of £10,000. I’ve come close but although it’s now looking unlikely that I’ll hit this target, I’m still over the moon with the progress.

If you are interested in trying matched betting then I can recommend Profit Accumulator. They are great at explaining how to start and even offer a free trial. Please note this is an affiliate link.

Tax refund

It’s not every day you get a tax refund, but I received one this month to the tune of £1,100. This is very welcome at this time of year but instead of spending it, I’m forwarding it all straight into my investing accounts.

Overtime

As mentioned I’ve been quite busy at work and this has resulted expected overtime payments of around £200. This was the first time I’ve been able to work overtime in this job and there probably won’t be many more so I tried to make the most of it without wearing myself out.

Other Business

I’m a firm believer in investing in your yourself and I very much include my appearance in this bracket. It’s worth buying good quality clothes as they increase your confidence and they tend to last longer too. I’ve been exploring charity shops lately and I’ve been amazed at what you can find – when browsing a local charity shop I found they had some Ted Baker Items in as corporate donations. These were brand new and I managed to pick up 2 jackets, 1 pair of trousers and a coat for only £110 in total! I’ll get some of these altered to fit me but truth be told they are quite close to a perfect fit any way.

Any way, that’s the summary for the month – How did everyone else do?

14 months of Matched Betting

Introduction: My first experience of matched betting was just over 10 years ago. At this time although it was popular, there wasn’t as much literature on the subject as there is now and it took some time to find the right offers manually. Now there are so many articles and websites designed to help you with finding offers, and in my opinion a paid service is fundamental to success. I’ve used a few, but in my experience Profit Accumulator offers a great entry point and was crucial to my staying power in the early days. Disclaimer: The above and the ads in this article are affiliate links and I will receive a commission for anyone who signs up using this link.

Background

I’m not sure where I’d be without the income from matched betting. It’s enabled me to buy a car outright (without taking out a small loan), support my family while on reduced income and it’s helped me afford a new bathroom. I can’t really stress how important having extra income can help in your life, particularly at times of uncertainty and change. True, matched betting has it’s ups and it’s downs and it isn’t as lucrative as it once was, but there is still good money to be made if you are willing to put the time in.

As I have mentioned in the header of this article, there are many matched betting services around, so I’m not going to attempt to explain the basics when they do it so well. I will however explain a few truths that you may need to know beforehand.

  • You should not even think about matched betting if you have a gambling addiction or you think you might be prone to problem gambling.
  • In time you may end up opening a large number of bookmaker and / or casino accounts. However you only need a few to begin with and you can work up from there.
  • Advanced methods can be emotional, believe me. Traditional offers are no / low risk, however if you are doing casino offers or trying to hit sports refunds you can go through dry spells.
  • It takes time and effort, and as such you have to treat it like a job.

Results

Onto the results. As mentioned I’ve done matched betting on and off for many years, but I only really started keeping proper records from August 2018. In 14 months I have made over £10,000 profit from casino offers and a further £3,800 from sports offers, bringing the total up to over £13,800. In the year before this I made £5,600 between both sports and casino, which shows I really stepped up the effort in the second year.

Casino

The £10,000 from casino offers has largely been from low risk casino offers mixed with some occasional higher risk offers. The profit of these over time is shown below and below this is the cumulative profit and expected value (EV). On average casino offers have returned £736 per month or £23 per day.

Profit over time (Top), Cumulative Profit and Expected Value over Time (bottom)

A further breakdown of the casino offer types is show below (the bubble size is the total number of offers done of that type). Most of the offers I’ve done are of the ‘Wager X get X bonus’ and these have returned a healthy profit so I plan to keep doing those. However an area that hasn’t been fully exploited is the deposit match type offer, contributing the highest profit but only taking up 113 (6%) of the 1,835 offers I’ve completed in this time period. However this may be because the highest winnings were from high risk casino sign up offers, so this could have easily have been lower.

Casino Offer Type vs Profit (Bubble size = Number of Offers Completed)
Sports

Early on I realised that while sports offers are on the most part risk free, there is more time spent looking for offers, hoping for refunds and checking for boosted odds. There are more advanced strategies but I typically tend to just do enough to try and offset any downswings in casino profits. On average I return around £270 per month, which is lagging severely behind casino profits. I’m aiming to increase this over the coming months.

Conclusion

Everybody knows that extra money is not an enabler of true happiness, but it can help clear the path to spend more time on the things that matter or help you out when you need a helping hand. Matched betting isn’t passive, but there aren’t many jobs that can compete with its potential returns, flexibility and low level to entry.

If it’s not for you, there are plenty of other ways to make extra cash, which I think is the key message and in my opinion the best thing that anyone can do for themselves and the future of their families. I’ve ended up putting my eggs in one basket of side income and the rational thing would be to look at diversifying. For now though, time is short and matched betting gives me the flexibility I need.

Otium

As with many Latin words, otium has many modern day interpretations. Originating in language used by roman infantry to describe time ‘on leave’, it became to be roughly translated as leisure time, or time away from one’s daily public life (‘public life’ in this sense was typically used to describe active engagements or commitments to further the state). In a broad and perhaps simplistic sense, otium could be described in modern terms as leisure time away from employment.

The best way to carry out this withdrawal from public life was a cause for much debate, and opinions were typically divided into two camps; those who favoured an active life (otium cum dignitate) or a contemplative life. In ancient times, taking your retirement or even having the time to discuss it was reserved for those of the aristocratic class, by virtue of the fact that they were the only ones who could afford to have retired from public life and had the rare option of pursuing a restful life or otherwise. Nowadays anyone with a computer and an internet connection can research the best way to a fulfilling life, and even arm themselves with the knowledge to retire early themselves.

Twenty centuries later, the world has changed in a way that would be out of the realms of thinking for the average Greek or Roman citizen. Even in recent times retirement has been traditionally seen as reserved for the older generations or those who have earned millions in business. The last 20 years or so have changed this thinking and personal finance authors and bloggers have largely lambasted the traditional thinking of retirement and financial advice, resulting in the FI/RE movement (financial independence/retire early).

This movement in turn has spawned myriads of lifestyle blogs, all claiming the ideas that underpin FI/RE fall within the everyday person’s grasp. Although occasionally their prerogatives should be questioned by determining what they stand to gain, there seems to be enough evidence to support this. The numbers add up and although there are some variations, they are all based on the same theme: spend less than you earn, invest the rest. Most of the time however the debate is based around how to best optimise performance, and not on the destination.

Unfortunately this laser focused view on controlling spending and investing can actually divert attention from where it is needed most. In fact occasionally investing in yourself and in quality products can make more of a positive impact to your life than obsessing over spreadsheets and financial statements ever could.

This is not a FI/RE blog per se. You are unlikely to find talk of penny pinching, or tips on how to cycle credit cards to your advantage. Our interest is more foundational; to discuss the humanistic motivations for retirement and to try to understand how to best live out our days with this in mind. We welcome case studies from people who have retired, so as to examine and learn from them. As for whether to persue an active or contemplative life – this will be a core theme of exploration.