Monthly Update #16 – December

After an enforced break, I’m back to start the New Year on the front foot. Studies are complete, the chaos of Christmas is now behind us and so it’s time to get back on track with a monthly roundup for the month of December!

Pursue FIRE Monthly Update

Personal Life – What’s Been Happening?

As you may have spotted, activity on my blog completely dried up post-September and with good reason. For the past year and a half, I have been studying towards an Executive MBA. For the most part, I was able to juggle this with other interests and time commitments, including posting a few times per month on this blog. However, as the finish line approached, the intensity of study, revision, examinations and a whopper of a concluding business project started to increase exponentially. 

There simply was no time or energy left in the day, after work and family, to do anything other than concentrate all my efforts on concluding my studies. Over the past few months, most of my evenings and weekends have been dedicated to getting this done and the wife and kids are happy to finally have me back 😉

The Finish Line

I’m happy to report that my final Capstone Project, encompassing a 40+ page business plan and a 20-minute investor pitch presentation, was wrapped up a few weeks before Christmas, thereby officially concluding my studies 🙂

I’m pretty confident that I’ve passed my MBA comfortably, based on the close tracking of my exam results throughout the process. Who knows, I may have even scraped into distinction territory! The final marks and confirmation are expected next week when I officially graduate! Wish me luck!

It’s been a lot of work but highly enjoyable. If nothing else, I’ve learned so much that I feel will benefit me in business, work, and life. I never lose the thirst for learning so I’m sure it won’t be long until I enroll for something else in 2020! I can’t sit still for long.

Family

Away from studying I’ve largely been a passenger in my family’s life. Things have been super busy as usual, including the first 3-4 months of the school year, endless kids clubs and parties to ferry the little ones to and from and, of course, the always busy but fun festive period.

Elsewhere, my grandmother sadly passed away in October, which hit us all hard. She was 93 and a real one-of-a-kind person and I was lucky enough to be one of her 18 grandchildren! Despite her elder years, she lived independently and was still going strong, but in the space of just a few days, she fell unwell and deteriorated very quickly from there. 

When news broke she was being rushed to the hospital, and that she may not make it through the night, the entire extended family rushed to be by her bedside, where we stayed until she peacefully passed away. Despite the sadness of the occasion, it was really a special few days with everyone together, sharing stories and memories of Grandma and reflecting on what really matters in life.

Net Worth Snapshot

Right! As it’s been a few months since I was last able to post an update, here is a snapshot as of the end of December. As usual, I break down my current financial assets as at the end of the month and compare these to the previous period (in this case August) and then also relative to 1-year ago (December 2018).

So, over the last four months since I last posted, my total net worth is alleged to have increased to a record £658,051 – an increase of 12.3% over the period! However, excluding property, that translates into a rather more pedestrian (and realistic) gain of 1.8% to £364,144. So what on earth is going on here then 🙂

Well, as I’m sure everyone is aware, the rate of growth in headline property prices in the U.K. largely flatlined in 2019 and in some cases started to retrace. Based on my own method for estimating the value of my home (taking the median price between the Nationwide-implied growth in the price of my home and the current Zoopla estimate), I had tracked a marginal decline in the value of my home of around £10-15k compared to the start of 2019. But, the close to the year suggests a pick-up in optimism and therefore estimated valuations. 

Brexit Boost?

So, how much trust can one place in these numbers? That is a good question. I’m a little skeptical of the extent of any gains, but I largely agree with the directional shift. I’ve no doubt that there has been a boost (the Nationwide and Halifax House Price Indices both suggest a stronger end to the year) and various commentators point to the ongoing supply of cheap mortgage deals and a shortage of supply bolstering the market.

I also have friends and family in the property and construction industries and they tell me there is a similar consensus that the market slowdown likely bottomed in November and that residential valuations are expected to rise in the first half of the year before potentially flattening out again.

Whether this translates into my own situation (and by how much) who really knows. But, if nothing else other than for maintaining the consistency of recording these figures in the same manner I have for the past 4+ years, I’m going with it.

Interestingly, our mortgage deal is up later this year, so I’ll get the chance for a valuation appraisal soon enough from estate agents and mortgage lenders. The proof will be in the pudding I suppose, but it’s at least a positive sign directionally after a lackluster year generally.

You can read the latest official press releases on the Nationwide (which I base my data on) and Halifax here:

This renewed general optimism also seemingly lifted my investment assets. My pension pot grew a little over £10k over the period (inclusive of individual and employer contributions) helped by a return of around 2% in my single Vanguard Lifestrategy fund in the last few months of 2019 (+18% for the year in total). Despite equally positive returns, my other investments retraced as I cashed in on some recent gains and made a small withdrawal.

Unsecured debt, formed of a tactical low-interest loan, continued to be tackled with close to 20% being wiped from this balance. This will soon be cleared in full on receipt of my annual performance bonus in February. So, these were the main moving parts in recent months with the obvious caveats regarding property valuations.

So how does this impact the longer-term picture? Overall, my total net worth now stands 24.7% higher than a year ago (+£130,538) and, excluding property, that’s an overall increase of 29.9% (+£83,864). So, even looking through the potentially inflated property valuations, things have done pretty well in 2019 all things considered.

Other updates

Career Cross-Roads

Whilst not the sole purpose, one of the expectations of doing an MBA was to enhance my career prospects going forward. I’ve no idea whether 2020 will see a job or career change but it is something I am giving more focus towards in an effort to find a better work-life balance.

I’ve been in the same industry now for 20+ years and I’m about half-way through the prescribed working life (not that I hope to be still working 25 years from now), but nevertheless it feels like a good point for reflection. I’ve also been commuting around 4 hours per day for the past decade which is just silly and not something I want to do for another decade!

Betting & Trading

Tennis trading continues to be a focus and I’ve now got the spare capacity to get things going in this space in 2020. The new season starts in the coming days and I’m going to be spending a lot of time refining my betting and in-play strategies for myself first and foremost and then potentially for wider use. I have some posts on this planned in the coming weeks.  

Elsewhere, football in-play trading (long a favourite of mine) has been a bigger focus of late with the tennis season on a break and with continued restrictions on certain bookmakers with respect to Each Way Betting on the horses. As with tennis, I plan to write a few football trading posts this year so keep your eyes peeled on those.

Blogging

While Pursue FIRE is now well over a year old, I still consider myself a total newbie when it comes to blogging. I think I have the raw basics down but there is much more I would like to learn and do with PursueFIRE this coming year so I hope I can focus more time and energy to drive it forward. 

That being said, I was curious to get some metrics on my blog to start paying more attention to its progress (or lack thereof). I’ve no idea whether this is good, bad or indifferent, but here is a summary of my traffic for the year, including the last four months when I did nothing on it! 

  • Visitors: The number of visitors for the year was 8,592 from 125 different countries.
  • Pageviews: The number of pageviews was 20,767 for 2019. Thanks to those of you who are kind enough to read me 🙂

An alternative view is that from Google Analytics – I only had this plugged into Pursue FIRE from late February so it’s a slightly different set of results if broadly similar.

Google Analytics only started in Feb – note the inevitable slowdown in traffic when I went awol 🙂

Future Posts & General Direction:

Well there you have it – that’s 2019 in a can! I hope, the four-month absence has not hurt me too much in terms of viewership – I have quite a few emails still to answer so I apologise if that’s you. I will reply I promise and I value every message I receive. As ever, I have so many ideas and plans, I just need to make a better fist of it in terms of getting my content out there.

I’m also mindful of redressing the balance somewhat between all things personal finance and FIRE and betting and trading content. This is, after all, intended to be a personal finance blog, with betting and trading a sub-set of this, the so-called side hustles to generate extra income. Ironically, by a country mile its the betting and trading content which attracts the most attention and so I may even consider a dedicated site for all things tennis, football and horse racing related. Watch this space.

So I conclude with the hope that 2020 is a great year for me and I wish equal success for all of you too! Let’s make it a memorable one 🙂

Catch you later

Dan

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. weenie

    Welcome back, Dan. Congrats on concluding your studies!

    Looks like you saw some great gains and long may that continue.

    I need to find the time to reread your tennis in play manuals as it’s something I think I’d like to try out.

  2. Dr FIRE

    Congratulations on finishing the MBA, Dan. Good to see you back posting. All the best for 2020!

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Hello and welcome to Pursue FIRE. My name is Dan and I am the owner and author of all content on this site. I am passionate about personal finance and look forward to engaging with you.
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