Do you know the square root of 4096?
...It's 64, which is roughly the same as the number of visits I've made to the toilet in the last 48 hours.
You see, the FIRE Escape not only surprises its attendees with valuable information on all things related to money. You can make friends with like-minded people, and for some of us, the bathroom.
I had a fabulous weekend away in Thurlstone, which will go down as one of my favourite FIRE Escapes, but I've also walked away with a not-so-friendly stomach bug, which has had me sidelined until yesterday morning.
It's not much fun having the world fall out of your arse over the space of 48 hours. An impending fart filled me with same amount of dread as my first self assessment tax return. Thankfully these bugs are fleeting things, and I'm pleased to announce that all is back to normal.
"Hello Friend, we meet again"
I tend to take a lot away from these weekends and I find it hard to summarise in a Blog post. It feels like I'm not doing it full service. Whether that's to do with my writing ability or the power of experiencing it in person, I'm not sure....
I just want to take this opportunity to thank everyone that came along. I enjoyed interacting with each and every one of you. I took something from all of my interactions, and here some of my key takeaways.
If you joined us for the weekend, please leave your takeaways in the comments below. I'd love to know what you picked up too!
First Timers and Regulars
One thing I like about the FIRE Escape meetings is having a nice blend of First Timers and Regulars. Each year we have a 50:50 split of newbies and regulars and I hope it continues to stay that way. In fact this weekend had slightly more newbies.
The First Timers offer new ideas and perspectives to earning or saving money, which always excites me. I love to find out why people decided to join us for the weekend, what people do for a living, or what they specialise in. It's also nice to meet another person that's interested in the same stuff as me. I'm so used to having no-one give a shit about investing, budgeting or making money online that it makes a nice surprise to have someone proactively discuss these very topics.
The substantial ratio of First Timers also make it easier for fellow First Timers. It's a bit weird arriving at a house full of strangers, wondering what the hell is in store for the next couple of days.
"Will it be safe?"
"Will they make me do anything strange?"
Well, we're not at liberty to tell to - due to our oath - so you'll have to join us to find out won't you.... Muuuhaaahaaa (attempted evil laugh)
The regulars are of course pivotal to the experience. They're the gel that help connect the group together. It's great to see old friends, and hear what they've been up to since the last meet up. You bring up old jokes, catch up, and generally take relationships on to new levels.
I'm not sure what other regulars think, but I find it motivating to talk about the progress I've made since the last meet up (as people inevitably ask) and I leave with an underlying desire to do x, y, and z before the next one and stand by my commitments.
Moving forward I'd like to encourage and preserve this blend if possible. I know it's largely out of my hands, but I think it's important to encourage both First Timers and Regulars to keep coming as the group get so much from it.
Frugal People Appreciate Quality
The accommodation was by far the highest standard we've had for a FIRE Escape before. The feedback was unanimous, the cottage was in near-perfect condition and it was a pleasure to stay in. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to match this quality every time, but if I can find a similar location for a reasonable price, I will.
The games room (with ping pong and pool table) went down well on first sight. As well as the separate break out room, but I'm not sure how much value these extras added to the weekend. I know Ed had a particularly hard time on the pool table on Saturday afternoon, but that was more down to my superiority than than the facility ;-) (I couldn't help myself Ed!)
Is there anything you'd like to have at the accommodation in future FIRE Escapes?
Get More Rooms
I thought I'd preempt a couple of points that came up prior to the weekend. This particular one was raised by several people.
In future FIRE Escapes I'll try to book a location that has around 8-12 rooms. A lot of people didn't end up coming, or spent more than they would have liked due to me not doing so.
I just want to apologise to everyone for that!
I was simply going off the response I had in January. I was concerned that it might only be me and Lou in the end.
It's clear that over the years we've been doing them that although we've had some people come and go, the interest has increased overall. I think with enough notice of the date and location we could fill 8+ rooms without too much trouble, based on FE 6.
I'll do my best to find a central England location with a higher number of rooms to accommodate this growing desire.
One thing that's previously delayed or hindered the process is my next point....
The Ever-Changing Price
I pay for the accommodation out of my own pocket, and seek to get my return back to zero from all of the attendees. The weekend isn't about making money for me. In fact I actually lose out from each weekend, but I don't mind.
I've want to make it as cost effective as possible for the people committing to stopping in the accommodation by giving donations back to them - after they've initially paid me - to incentivise people to commit to stopping over, and making the weekend viable.
The downside to this method reared it's head this weekend as multiple people - who wanted to stop over - couldn't because the rooms were already taken. So, they not only had to pay for single accommodation nearby. They also 'voluntarily contributed' some money to me, which I then passed back to the guests stopping in the house. This meant that some people were paying over £100 for 2 nights whilst having to sort out transport too and from the location each day, whilst the house guests were paying just less than £60 for the same duration, and not having to leave the house. This wasn't right, and it was my fault!
Once again, I'm sorry for the way this turned out. By trying to help, I ended up pissing some people off.
In future, I've decided to simplify this process and make it fairer for everyone.
Once I've selected the location, I'll notify everyone of the price and date. I'll break down the price for stopping 1 and 2 nights (on location), and a separate rate for day guests. If there's an oversupply of money donated by people not stopping over, I'm not going to divide it all down and give it back to house guests. I'm going to add that money to my charitable fund instead.
The way I see it, by giving money back to the people stopping in the house, it creates the possibility of conflict. By keeping the money myself, it could put people off coming for fear of "he's only doing it to make money", but by giving the excess money to charity at least an external good cause is benefitting from it, which I think is less of a grind than it going to other attendees.
I won't be adjusting the rate after it goes live - unless there's a dramatic fall in numbers. Instead, I'll stick to the proposed rate and pass the excess cash onto charity.
What do you think?
Am I missing anything?
Finding a Mentor
This isn't a ground breaking message, but I think it gets largely overlooked by many. 'A' from Scotland was a big advocate to this approach when it comes to learning anything from scratch. She implemented it with her eBay business, Dividend Investing and even Whisky Investing (more on that later...).
Why not save time, money and effort and find out what successful people do and how you can do the same. Modelling success is such a basic concept that most people are familiar with but so many of us forget about it's impact.
I'm guilty of working things out myself, and I've missed this important step as a result. Now that I'm working with a coach to help me get my course out there I'm seeing the benefits of this approach first hand. I wish I'd taken the step earlier.
Thank you for the useful reminder 'A'.
Success on Youtube
Cora & Helen from 'The Mini Millionaire' have a successful Youtube channel, which you can find HERE. In fact I introduced one of the First Time attendees (Ed) to Cora who replied not with the standard "Hello" or "I'm Ed", but pointed at her and said "You've got a Youtube channel". Cora said that during their Reselling tour of the North, she also had someone call her name from across the street, so their channel is clearly having an impact.
When I asked her what her secret to success was she said that it was largely down to doing daily Vlogs. Rather than mince around with irregular videos like me, Cora & Helen have committed to putting out a video everyday, which is some undertaking.
They've also invested in a nice camera and even a drone to help improve the quality of their footage. I plan on buying a decent camera and develop my editing skills to improve the viewing experience for my subscribers.
I'm not sure where I'm going to take Youtube for now, but I'm enjoying the journey. As long as I continue to make videos, I want to be progressing what I produce.
Are there any videos you'd like me to film?
Do any advice from what you've seen so far?
(don't say find a mentor!)
This topic was probably the biggest surprise I took from the weekend. 'A' was quizzed about it on numerous occasions over the course of her stay. I think I might have been the first. When asked about what she invests in, she replied almost nonchalantly with "dividend growth stocks, eBay, whisky.....".
"Whisky. What to drink or to make money?"
As an avid whisky drinking fan, I was hoping for a bit of both, but 'A' is teetotal so it was solely the latter.
'A' went on to explain how she got into it and how it all works. Like any type of investing, it's not fool-proof and the returns aren't guaranteed but the topic certainly interested me.
In fact 'A' hadn't technically made any money from this strategy because she hasn't sold any stock. But she can see that the sale prices for her 'Whiskfolio' that there's good money in.
Some whiskys are released with a limited number - let's say 5,000 bottles. Therefore, there's never going to be more than 5,000 bottles, only less. Some of the buyers will be investors, like 'A'. While others will be drinkers, like me. Each successive bottle that's drunk makes that particular brand more rare. When an item is scarce, the demand 'usually' increases for fear of missing out. That's why Lou would be lost without me.... I'm just too darn rare! ;-)
'A' explained that in some cases, distilleries that have closed down - like Port Ellen or Macallan - yield massive ROI's because of their solid reputation and ever decreasing numbers. It's a classic case of supply and demand.
Off the back of the weekend, I've been in touch with 'A' and I've decided to dabble in a bit of Whisky Investing myself. Lou and I purchased 2 x bottles each off the back of her suggestions.
I just want to add, I know the risks I'm taking on and can afford the loses. 'A' was very cautious about offering advice in fear we would hold her accountable, but I reassured her I would take full responsibility for the increase in price, and would only blame her if it didn't work out.
Joking aside, I see Whisky Investing as a bit of fun as a whisky drinker, and if it turns out to make us a bit of money on the side then great, but if not, I'll drown my sorrows in the Whiskfolio! (Do you think the term will catch on?)
If you guys are interested in the details, drop me a note in the comments below and I'll do a separate post/video on it.
We received our first two bottles in the post today. The Whiskfolio begins....
The Game of Investing
Before I explain this point, I just want to clarify that I do take investing seriously. It's enabled me to become Financially Independent and I plan on continuing to invest wisely in the future.
I personally choose to invest in individual stocks over funds, when many people advocate sticking to index investing, including the great Warren Buffett. This decision is due to the higher income I receive (5+% yield, rather than 1-3%), the one off cost for life rather than an ongoing annual charge, and the potential to beat the performance of index trackers by selecting specific, higher performing stocks. But there's another reason, and one that I don't hear from many people....
I enjoy it!
I know that Vanguard's Life Strategy 80% Equity fund is a solid investment. It just doesn't interest me as much as shares do.
I'm not judging anyone for buying it. In fact, I have that very fund in my ISA and SIPP. I've recommended it as the sole investment option for 4 members of my family and at least 3 friends and countless people I don't care about. I just enjoy the process of selecting stocks and testing myself against the market, which leads me onto my main point....
A couple of the attendees no longer need to invest money into shares or funds, yet they continue to grow and develop their portfolio. Why?
Over the weekend I could see that they did it for the same reason I've just explained.... They enjoy the process.
We had one First Timer, John, who I'm sure won't mind me saying, was 87 years old. That officially makes him the eldest attendee to date. Congratulations John!
He told me that he still ponders over where to distribute his capital. I somewhat rudely asked him "John, seeing you've been retired for many, many years now, what's your motivation or goal to continue making future investments and growth?"
He took a few moments to contemplate the question and replied "It's become a habit and I enjoy it".
Although I don't know for sure, I think I'm going to be the same as John. For example, I could just not work another day in my life today and start living on my investment income, but (a) That might leave me a little short if the stock market tanks (b) I'd like to live a lifestyle with more disposable income, thus increases my options and (c) It wouldn't be much fun!
When I start taking money from my portfolio, I'll do so in an incremental way. So if I were getting £1,000 per month for example. I don't see myself taking the full allocation. Instead, I might take out 50-75%, and put the rest back in to future growth.
I've formed a habit of living on less than I earn, and I don't see that being easy to break, nor would I want to.
I'm interested to get your thoughts on this topic.
- What are your plans when your investments meet your living expenses?
- Do you plan on taking it all out?
- Will you withdraw it as soon as you hit FI?
- Or do you want it to reach a higher threshold?
The Release of Innovative Self Publishing
Possibly the second biggest surprise I took from the weekend was the anticipation people had for me releasing my course - Innovative Self Publishing.
I've received emails from people saying they're looking forward to it, but it felt different having people tell you in person.
It wasn't anything dramatic like someone putting their life on hold solely for the course, but I got a sense that a lot of people were excited about its release. And some were very eager to start Self Publishing and wanted to know specifically when it would be out.
Now, they might have been 'blowing smoke up my ass', which might explain the following 48 hours, but I got a sense that people were genuinely keen.
This sense of responsibility struck a cord with me. This is why I've chosen to create the damn thing in the first place. The easy thing to do would be to keep my knowledge, experience and tactics to myself and grow my wealth. And I would be lying if I said it hadn't crossed my mind!
Increasing my income from £6,000 to £12,000 per month would be cool, but I don't see it improving my happiness or lifestyle in any dramatic way. But having someone say to me "Your course changed my life forever. I'm now FI because of you" would literally make my world. I would happily make friends with the toilet for a month to have that experience! I don't think money could rival that feeling of satisfaction for me.
I will continue to work on my course each day and do my best to get Module 2 out to the Founding Members as soon as I can. I hope I can achieve my goal of helping other people quit their jobs and be a part in solving their 'money problem'.
I struggle with allowing the demands (or simple requests) from others prioritise my development. For example, I'm aware it's Thursday, which is 4 whole days after the FIRE Escape, and I haven't completed my summary. It feels like I'm late. I have emails which I haven't responded to, which need more than a couple of sentences, perhaps even 15 minutes or so of my time. It feels like I'm late. It's the 9th March and I haven't filmed my Feb Goal update video for Youtube. I feel late. I eat some toast and 20 minutes later my stomach grumbles. "I need the toilet" but it's too late!
You get the picture.
The problem I encounter is that the course has 'never been', so it doesn't ever feel late, which I'm aware might not make any sense. This weekend however made me realise that every day that passes is late for someone. I could see it in their eyes.
Thank you to everyone that helped put that pressure on me during the weekend. I got a boost of confidence that my course matters and energy from hearing it in person.
And I'd like to thank everyone in general for coming along and making the weekend so great. I got the sense that a lot of people enjoyed themselves and if they didn't, Lou and I certainly did!
Until next time....
PS. Please leave any comments you had from the weekend, or suggestions on how to improve it for future!
PPS. Weenie correctly pointed out that the spelling for Scotch Whisky is without the 'e'. I've edited the post above accordingly.
Labels: Dividend Growth Investing, Early Retirement, Financial Independence, FIRE Escape, Frugal Living, Innovative Self Publishing, Kindle Publishing, Matched Betting, Reselling, UK Gathering, Whiskey Investing