2020 Reviewed – A Very Weird Year

2020 has been a very weird year. 

It’s been so weird that I even have to check myself to see if I’m not actually experiencing a very strange lucid dream.

The year started out relatively normal. I was excited for the year to begin after hitting my long awaited £100k invested goal. I was rested after having a nice Christmas break at the in-laws house. I wrote about how good I was feeling, how everything was ‘coming together,’ my parents were hoping to retire to Spain before 2021 after a stressful 50 years of working, I had vowed to study and apply for a dream job; I was raring to go.

Little did I know that within 3 months, I’d never go into London for work again, we’d be getting police warnings for having a picnic in the park, and the whole world would be locked down.

The Lucid Dream Began

When we were consigned to working from home in March, we were pretty damn happy. As you all know, we rarely went out to spend money, all of the things that we enjoy doing; hiking, playing video games, reading, were still mostly doable. In-fact, as a household, we’d be saving around £400 per month in commuting costs. It was a win-win.

We found ourselves having a lot more free time, so we filled it with baking and cooking. We made, for the first time; fresh pasta, pork-pies, croissants, cinnamon buns, paneer, and peshwari naan bread. Life was good.

Not forgetting about my 2020 goals, I used some more of our COVID-gifted free time to study hard for tough interviews. Then, the unbelievable happened: The moonshot that I was aiming for to get experience succeeded, a tech-giant wanted to relocate us out of the UK, in the middle of a pandemic.

The much more difficult (but way more exciting) option of getting hired at a tech-giant like Google or Facebook. This would also give me a much better chance of making it to the USA.

From 2019 Reviewed

A Virus Ridden Trip

In July, we set sail across Europe with our cat in tow, we’d packed up our lives and were relocating to Sweden so that I could work for my dream employer. The lucid dream got more surreal.

That brings us to today, we’ve been in our new home for 6 months, all sense of normalcy has gone, we’ve had to reset and re-calibrate. I’ve lost all will to study and write, our minds are still shaken up, what are we doing in Sweden?

2020 Financial Review

Despite the pandemic, my savings increased substantially. This was mainly due to the hugely inflated contributions at the beginning of the year where I was saving between £7000 and £8000 for 5 months. However, this almost stopped completely as soon as I found out we were relocating to Sweden.

Let’s take a look.

  • £193,383 Networth (+£58,493)
  • £160,021 Excluding House (+£56,162)
  • £46,905 Contributed
  • £11,590 Interest Earned
  • £106,652 Pension (+£43,345)
  • £32,397 Contributed
  • £10,948 Interest Earned
  • £53,191 Stocks & Shares ISA (+£15,273)
  • £11,000 Contributed
  • £4,273 Interest Earned
  • £178 Other Investments (-£2,455)
  • £178 Contributed
  • £5,611 Interest Earned
  • £33,362 House Equity (+£2,331)
  • £2,331 Contributed

There has been an overhaul to the Super Spreadsheet again, that’s one of the reasons for this review post being so late! I’ve added the ability to input and track multiple currencies, I know that this is probably not a very desired feature for most of you, but it was needed for me as I now have savings in Swedish krona, British pounds, and US dollars. One cool new feature is that you can easily switch currencies to see what your FIRE fund looks like in another country. I’ll be posting an update soon to explain how you can use the new spreadsheet.

Subscribe to SavingNinja to get access to all of the same juicy charts for personal use.

Financial Growth

My networth increased by 43.36% this year at £58,493. This is actually lower than last year’s growth which was £69,262, but the percentage difference is lower still as 2019 stood at a 175.46% increase. As I stated in my 2019 Reviewed post, I’ll probably never see growth like that again.

My accounts now stand at £193,383 networth and £160,021 excluding-property. I’m hoping that I’ll soon be able to reach the £250k networth and £200k invested goals, but I’m sceptical of this happening in 2021 as I’ve yet to begin saving properly again.

I filled my ISA by £11,000 and it grew by £4,273. I won’t be saving into an ISA anymore as the tax-free status is void now that I’m not in the UK. I’ll be saving into a Swedish ‘ISK’ instead which is their (slightly worse) version.

I contributed £32,397 into my pension and it earned £10,948 in interest. The gap between my pre-pension and pension accounts will grow increasingly larger as I move forward due to workplace contributions and moving country. It’s a good job too as a pension seems to be the only thing that persists when relocating due to pension treaties.

Last year, I was happy that I’d reached £100k total investments, this year, my pension alone is worth more than that! It’s pretty awesome to think that no matter what happens in life, I’ll still have a healthy pension when I retire.

If I don’t contribute anything into my pension again and I withdrew it at the age of 60, with an average growth of 6% per year it should be worth £658,585. If I continue to contribute £3000 per year from workplace contributions (right now my workplace is contributing £1000 per month,) it will be worth over £1m.

This golden-retirement was mostly from heavy contributions for the 2.5 years that I worked at my last company as that workplace pension account alone has over £95k within it. It’s crazy when I think that I theoretically ‘completed’ my pension in only 2.5 years, never having to think about it again. I’ll also be able to avoid the super tax as all of my further contributions will be earned in different countries.

This chart illustrates the heavy investments that I bought at the beginning of the year, which then almost completely stopped. I didn’t see the interest gain traction for those investments until November.

You can see from this chart that my portfolio was in fact down for the year all of the way until November, but ended the year being £11,590 up. Contributions still vastly outweighed my investment gains, although I suspect this will change in 2021 due to a very low contribution amount.

Here’s how my investments have grown over time. In March due to the huge drop, my total portfolio was down by over £12,000! Although that quickly recovered and as it stands I’m £21,371 up since I began investing in mid-2018. Which brings my total investment gain since the beginning to 17.23%.

This is probably my favourite new chart. It shows the total earned via contributions and interest stacked for each of my accounts. You can see that in March, whilst still being above water in total, my pension and ISA interest earned was pushing my iceberg down quite a lot, although it soon bobbed back up in the later months. My ‘other investments’ remains below water as I withdrew my Tesla earnings in August and they’ve yet to be reinvested as I’m saving them for my Swedish house purchase (which should be happening soon!)

Looking Ahead

It’s very hard to predict how much I will have invested in 2021, which sucks, I’ve never felt this blind since I began my FIRE journey. We’re currently looking at property to buy in Stockholm as it is a lot cheaper than renting. And with the 15% deposit that we need, along with all of the costs of moving and furnishing a new place, I’ve halted my monthly saving with the hope of not being completely skint when we buy.

As it stands I have around £60k waiting to be used for moving, and depending on what we purchase, this may all be needed for a deposit, which will leave us with very little, or nothing at all for purchasing a bed, sofa, etc. (Were in a furnished rented apartment at the moment.) If we have to use all of that for a deposit, we may even have to take a small loan from family or the bank to allow us to buy some furniture. Either that, or sell some of my ISA investments. This may actually not be a bad idea as Sweden will normally want a 30% cut of any ISA profits when I sell, but if I only sell and move in a little, it may go unnoticed.

As soon as we’ve bought a place and furnished it, I’ll know how much I can safely start saving again, although we’ll also have to refill our emergency funds; this may mean that we save almost nothing this year, which absolutely sucks. At least I have a decent enough amount invested to not feel too left out when the market grows.

Goals Achieved

Below are my goals from 2019 Reviewed.

1. Reach £200k total net worth (C)

So close!! My spreadsheet tracks my networth as £193k, although I did withdraw around £9k from my ‘other investments’ which will be reinvested in the form of house equity soon, this would push my net worth to above £200k. So, I’ve marked this as a solid C for effort.

2. Complete a 6-month Coursera Specialisation in Algorithms (A++)

I completed this course, it’s now a shiny certificate on my LinkedIn profile. This course kicked off my further learning into advanced Computer Science theory and is what landed me my dream job! Here’s the course if you want to do it yourself.

3. Apply to at least 2 tech-giant companies (A)

OK, I didn’t apply to 2, I applied to 1… But the first company hired me. I don’t think I thought about that eventuality when writing this goal, so I’ve awarded myself an A!

4. Get a new job which is higher pay / in leadership / a tech-giant (A++)

This goal was knocked out of the park!! I landed a senior tech-giant role with higher pay and the prospect of leadership very soon. A++.

4. Go on more than 1 holiday (A)

This is pretty funny that I set this goal and then COVID hit. I did, however, manage to go on a Christmas holiday to northern Sweden. And moving to Sweden in-itself was a holiday as we stayed in Belgium, France, and Germany whilst traveling here.

Goals for 2021

Alright, what do I want to achieve this year?

1. Apply to at least 2 management positions

I’ve set myself up on the path to becoming an Engineering Manager, and I want to apply to at least 2 positions this year, preferably more. Or, of course, apply to less and get the role. The reason I want to go down this path is two-fold; One, I think I’ll enjoy it. I’ve always been enjoyed talking with people and optimising approaches/methodologies, and the servant-leadership model of managers at my company seem like the perfect fit to my personality. And two, getting relocated and a Green card in the USA is a lot easier when you’re a manager and using an L1A Visa, you can even get citizenship within 1 year, instead of the usual 4+. Moving in this direction is also a lot easier than moving further along from Senior in the technical progression ladder.

2 Become comfortable at my new company

Becoming comfortable and feeling at home in my new company has been a slower burn due to COVID, but I’m getting there. I’m hoping that after this year, I’ll really feel like I fit in and stop feeling like an imposter. I need to make sure that I continue to study the systems at my new place and that I don’t get docile, which is very easily to do when working from home; otherwise I’ll run the risk of never feeling like I fit in.

3. Start saving at least 50% of my salary again

I’m really hoping that at some point this year I’ll be able to start saving again. 50% has been plucked out of the air because I’m still not sure what our eventual savings will look like when the dust settles. I’ve purposely not looked as I don’t want to go down the extreme-frugal route again and end up living in a studio apartment; we’ve got a nest egg, we should be able to breath a bit and not be allergic to spending money.

4. Release version 1.0 of my app

Since the beginning of last year I’ve been working on my most ambitious app yet. Without giving too much away, the app combines two of my favourite things; cooking, and frugal shopping. The app is actually quite far along but is extremely complex with user accounts, real-time databases, and backend services, and since moving to Sweden, I’ve not touched it! I’ve set myself the goal of working for at least a few hours a week on the app so I’m hoping that it will be ready for version 1.0 at some point this year.

5. Reach £200k invested and £250k net worth

These figures seemed like a reasonable target. I think it will be pretty hard to achieve the invested target unless I start saving again pretty quickly, we’ll see how the markets behave.


Alright, bring on 2021!!

What goals have you set for the year?

OddsMonkey

8 thoughts on “2020 Reviewed – A Very Weird Year

  1. Hey SN

    Even if you leave out all the pandemic stuff, 2020 was an absolutely extraordinary and epic year for you. I can totally see how it all seems like a dream! And well done on achieving some really ambitious goals!

    Although your net worth and invested amounts didn’t hit your goals, you had valid reasons for this (money set aside for your house purchase) – you might not be able to get back to saving and investing quickly but you absolutely know that you will get back into accumulating again.

    It’s brilliant that you’ve worked out that you only need to contribute £3k a year and you’ll be a millionaire! I reckon you’ll be one far sooner than that!

    Anyway, good luck with your 2021 goals and cheers for recommending ‘The Way of Kings’ to read – after a few chapters, I’ve been totally sucked in and looking forward to ploughing through the 1k pages!

    1. Thank you Weenie 🙂

      Ooooo, just you wait until you’re a little further in! I have book 3 and 4 now, I’ll send them over soon.

  2. A year like no other. Very well done, SN! I would say you got lucky, but I very much agree with the maxim that ‘good luck is where preparation meets opportunity’. Sounds like a real gear change in your career, I hope it continues to go well.

    My (our) goals for 2021? Well, as someone in the Retired stage of FIRE, they’re somewhat different. On the financial front they are

    1. Grow passive income. The foundation to our income (financially me and Mrs C are a single unit) is our defined benefit pensions, there’s not much I can do about those but we do have sources of passive (and nearly passive) income. These include dividend income, matched betting, and cryptocurrency mining. Combined, these generated about £5K in 2020, I hope to increase these to £6K in 2021. This will be achieved by

    – Spending a bit more time on the MB, narrowing the focus onto activities with the highest profit and opening some more accounts.

    – Investing (and reinvesting) some more funds into crypto. I probably shouldn’t count this as income yet as currently I plough all the proceeds into buying more mining. Profit was £1600 in 2020, a midrange projection for 2021 is double that, but uncertainties are high, it could easily be half or twice that figure, or in a worst case scenario, zero.

    – Holding on to or increasing high income assets. Many companies have cancelled or cut dividends but my favourite income generator, Regional REIT has so far maintained theirs and is yielding over 10%. Shares are available at 77p for a NAV of 101p, very tempting.

    2. Increase net worth. We are currently drawing down our DC pension pot so net worth on paper should diminish, which was happening to plan up to March 2020. The pandemic hit the net worth hard for reasons I detailed over on Slack, down around £70k at bottom, however since around May the graph has trended upwards and is now back above the target. This is due to market recovery and the ‘lockdown dividend’, a lack of opportunity to spend money and increased self-reliance in terms of growing our own veg, baking bread, and so forth. I can’t do much about the market (Go Fundsmith!) but I have a feeling some of the new frugality will last after lockdown. In my long distant student days I brewed my own beer and I still have the kit and the skills. Maybe my next project will be to clean it all up and convert the back of the garage into a brewery…

    3. Dig for Victory. Get at least one meal a week from the garden during summer/autumn. I’ve always enjoyed growing a bit of veg but in lockdown I put it on a more serious footing, creating proper beds with paths, building a soft fruit orchard and clearing out and reglazing the greenhouse. Not exactly The Good Life, but everything they say about fresh produce turns out to be true!

    Gott nytt år!

    Phil Clarke

  3. Hey Ninja.

    I am so pleased for you buddy that you managed to make such a big change to your life. It is so bold and I do envy that for sure (I think I’m just too comfy to even try to do something similar haha). At the end of the day like you said before, you will never be in a position to say ‘What If…’. The fact that you have done this, even if it didn’t work out. What an experience and how awesome that will now look on a CV also.

    I think your app sounds promising, that could really do well for you so Defo worth the time and effort when you get the time. What an interesting 2020 you have had even on top of COVID!

    TFJ

    1. Thank you Chris! Yeah, we’ll always be glad that we did it 🙂

      I wish that I had more motivation to finish this app!

  4. You probably had the most exciting year out of anyone I know, for sure!

    Loving the chat about not being allergic to spending now. You’ve done the hard yards already (and very quickly!) So time to take the foot off the frugality pedal now and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Never let it be said that I don’t love a mixed metaphor.

    All the best for 2021 dude ✌️

    1. Haha, maybe the new gage on how full you’re living your life should be how exciting it is! Exciting means more worry though, especially for me 😀 It’s definitely a rollercoaster instead of a row in a lake, but maybe it’s worth it if you can learn to not worry as much.

      Yeah I seem to be a man of extremes… Spend no money, then move to Sweden, buy a piano and a second house, save no money. My equilibrium is out of whack!! I’m gonna blame it on going too long without a pint.

      Happy 2021, hoping to see a post from you soon 🙂

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