Hats off to the slackers! The false virtue of hard work‏

My dad worked damn hard his whole working life. He had to, to raise us as a family. He often had three jobs at a time to make ends meet and worked 7 days a week for months on end. As far back as I can remember he’d say things like “there’s no work in him” when talking about a colleague who was taking it easy on the job. And “I’ve never had a day off ill in my life” was his most-heralded badge of honour.

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It rubbed off on all of us – his values, his attitude to work and money, his fear of being laid off and penniless with no safety net in the bank with which to keep the family fed and watered.

I’ve always been very committed to the employers I’ve worked for, largely through that same fear of not having a future paycheque come through the proverbial door, to the point of exhaustion and near-breakdown on two occasions. My sister too. She’s worked tirelessly in a range of jobs, sacrificing her health many a time for the success of the company she worked for, and she continues to do so.

Time after time

In my current job, I see the same proud drive in some of my colleagues. They make a point of emailing late at night and early in the morning, showing they’re forever plugged into the corporate machine. They’ll say with fake indignation (and intended pride) they had to work all weekend on a report for the board or a new budget forecast for the MD.

It’s a false prophecy. The fake angel at play. I know most of the time there’s no need for them to work such hours, let alone do so without saying any of this to their boss, the one person who should be aware.

Then there are others who appear to be on easy-street. They roll up half an hour late, always leave on time, take a full hour for lunch, never work at home late into the night and have the carefree demeanour of a holidaygoer strolling along a deserted Caribbean beach.

I used to secretly sneer at these people. “No work in them” I’d say to my wife, echoing my dad’s often-used put-down from decades earlier. “Lazy sod. He can’t take the pace.”

Hats off

Not anymore. I admire these people. I’m fascinated to see how they’ve managed to cruise through on roughly the same career and salary trajectory, never getting stressed to the point of sickness or being cajoled into taking on more project work in a week than there are waking hours. They’re the smart ones!

And me? And my family?! What on earth have we been doing? We’ve been killing ourselves in the name of corporate gain. And for what? You don’t get more money at the end of it. In fact you get less. You end up reducing your hourly pay because your hours go up, for the same monetary reward. You end up saying “no” to nights out with friends and weekends away with your partner or family because you need to burn the midnight oil on a high-profile business pitch. You might get a nod of appreciation. But so what? Where’s the real value in a quick smile of thanks? Bugger that.

With my plans for financial independence now well and truly up and running, I’ve looked back and seen this work behaviour from a different perspective. I’ve been questioning this so-called ‘work ethic’ and the benefits it really delivers. And the answer is quite simply “none”.

 

 

Working while you’re working towards financial freedom

A few months ago, it dawned on me. I could actually retire early and live a financially free life, one that satisfied the soul. And not just in 10 years when I’ll be 52 but in like 4 years, maybe even 2 years at a push!

My immediate excitement was further fuelled by feverishly reading the famous US bloggers on this topic – Mr Money Mustache, Brave New Life and the many others who have already achieved this aim.

But after an initial two-week burst of light-headed glee, I quickly found working life much, much tougher day to day. I’d found the path to a better more fulfilled-existence and, with that realisation, it simply made my current routine feel all the more depressingly mundane and pointless. I wanted out. I wanted to rush headlong through the next few years and get to my goal. What was I to do in the mean time? What was going to inspire me, motivate me day to day, when I’d essentially damned my day-to-day living.

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Alarm call

Getting up for work was harder than ever. Sitting through boring, rambling meetings now made me plain angry. I was actually getting more stressed and upset than ever before. Dealing with work when marching towards financial freedom has become a real challenge for me.

I’ve had to jolt myself into reality that life is good, life is beautiful and it’s plain wrong and selfish to wish your life away like that. Having feelings of lethargy and sadness when you have everything you need in the world – and have just seen the light towards an even better future – is just stupid. I had a strong word with myself. “Buck up, pal!”

Happy while you work

I’ve been reading up on what other financially independent retirees (FI-ers) went through. But in truth, I couldn’t find anything on the usual blogs and forums that reflected my mood. Everyone else seemed very happy and calm in going through this transition.

For one, many FI-ers seem to actually really like work. I was surprised. I mean, I get that to a point. I enjoy working too, at times, but I always want it on my terms. I’m terrible for having a short-term buzz and no long-term vision. When I start a new job I’m enormously excited and passionate for the first 12 months but the enthusiasm wanes quickly as I seek out more variety.

I recently read about The Gervais Principle, which is a rather dour but engaging outlook on working life and how we fit into one (or more) of three roles – Sociopath, Clueless and Loser. It’s well worth a read.

These labels are not quite as they seem in The Gervais Principle.

The Sociopath is someone at the top of the tree, a successful senior manager who has no qualms in hiring and firing people, making cut-throat decisions and has little awareness of the emotive issues in a business. The Clueless is in the middle, blindly following the ambitions and demands of the business that the Sociopaths dictate and working their hands to the bone in pursuit of a decent wage. The Losers are those who haven’t been dealt such a good hand financially at work; they are missing out on the financial rewards but have less relentless pressure from above, arguably.

I’ve been Clueless all my working life. Now I want to be a Loser. And I’m not ashamed to say it!

I’m a Loser, baby

I’ve started to edge into that Loser space. Taking on less, leaving work on time, looking at the bare minimum I need to get done each day, week and month. I’ve been cutting out activities that I think won’t eventually evolve into anything of significance. And I’ve been standing back, letting everyone else enthusiastically join in on email conversations or debates in meetings, only getting involved when directly asked to. The work that’s left feels so much more valuable and I can devote a realistic amount of time to doing a great job on the important stuff. It’s refreshing.

The Norwegians and their 6-hour working day really are on to something.

Breaking even

It’s all about balance. As usual.

I’m a stickler for bullet points and mantras that can help summarise my thoughts and focus my mind, so here are my top 5 on, what I’ll call, ‘How to enjoy work while you plan your escape from it’:

  1. You’re actually already free. So feel free. 

    Realise you don’t NEED this. You’ve figured it out. You have seen the light and carved out a beautiful path to financial freedom and a wonderful new life. You no longer face decades ahead of slaving and worrying over your status in the workplace. If you were to lose your job now, it might set you back a bit but you would be ok. You would find another job in time to see you over the finish line. Hell, you might even start your early retirement even earlier than planned, knowing you’ve got some dosh tucked away and you’ll figure out a way to earn the extra needed to plug any gap in time (if there indeed is one – you might have over-estimated your requirements).Don’t get bullied into running additional projects or go chomping after the new boss to ‘fit in’ and secure your place at the table. You’re better than that. Fuck the hierarchy. Don’t for goodness sake take it home with you, whether it’s physically so on your laptop or mentally – no more work dreams please!

  2. Use this time to learn. 

    See what you can do in the workplace that will develop your skills for later in life, when you leave the traditional office environment. If you can’t find anything within the remit of your job, then use your carefully crafted ‘downtime’ to read up on exciting new projects, learn new skills, or get your colleague to show you some software that might come in handy further down the line.

  3. Make new friends, see people for what they really are, and be kind – help others. 

    You’ve started to see the escape route and you no longer need to fight your corporate corner. You can now help those around you who haven’t yet had the fortune to plot their path to financial freedom. Pay extra care to those who are suffering under the weight of a heavy workload, anyone who gets pushed into doing the mountain of menial tasks that get little credit, and colleagues who are finding it difficult to get a balanced life outside of work.

  4. Cherry-pick – do the tasks that make you happy. 

    This is your time. So what if you’re not held up as the golden boy or girl of the department. You don’t need to kiss arse or you’re your way to the top. They’re not going to get rid of you. And if they do, that’s cool – you’ll find something else soon enough and have some savings to fall back on while you’re looking. So look for the fun bits of work, those jobs that give you the greatest emotional reward. And take your time getting through them.

  5. Be brave, be bold, change the landscape. 

    You are different. You are no longer on the treadmill to 65-year-old retirement. Your path is shorter and sweeter than that. Embrace your innovation, your spirit, your daring and project it in the workplace. Have no fear at asking the questions no one else will ask. Make wild suggestions that rock the foundations of your company’s safe, mundane, routine processes. You might just find the more leftfield your thinking, the better the ideas – and the more excited those around you become.

Good luck, peeps.

My top 10 financial freedom blogs

Over the last few months I’ve been soaking up some amazing blogs, books and websites, from early retirement journeys to self-sufficiency and permaculture to plain and simple wellbeing ideals. Here’s my current top 10 blog sites. No doubt my favourites list will change over time but all these are wonderful sites and each has struck me with its energy, vivaciousness, honesty and candour.

I hope you like them too. Please let me know your favourites – @themoneygiraffe

Brave New Life       

My glorious awakening to the possibilities of early retirement, frugal living and rejecting consumerism was when I stumbled across this amazing blog. BNL writes brilliantly, sustains unbelievable perspective, offers excellent insights and above all keeps a wonderful balance of confidence and humility as he portrays his journey towards, through and beyond financial freedom. Oh, and he just bought a farm. Very cool.

Honey, I Bought a Farm

Early Retirement Extreme         

I love an extremity. And I love the notion of early retirement. Put them together, what have you got? ERE. Run by Jacob. (He’s great.) The site is much more a plethora of functional resource to those eager to find early retirement than a personal recount of a lone experience. If you want to know how far you really can push things, this guy is for you.

Mr Money Moustache

Introducing… The famous MMM. His blogging has struck a chord with many thousands and engendered many a journalistic approach, who find his demeanour, verbiage and bombastic wit entirely charming. I agree with them. He’s an effortless and engaging writer with a single-minded approach to maxing out on life’s true meaning, happiness. All achiebed via the medium of his self-proclaimed ‘badassity’. Get in.

Rob Greenfield

A very new discovery for me is the www.robgreenfield.tv site. This Wisconsin-born lad is more adventurer-activist than early retiree per se. Rob has gone on an incredible four-year journey wherein he has been a year without showering, travelled America for free and found the secrets to living a footprint-free existence: Reduce – Re-use – Recycle. Dive on in, folks.

Biography

1500 Days

Mr 1500 and Mrs 1500 are a fascinating couple. I identify with them hugely because their situation a few years back is so much like mine right now. I’m starting with a reasonable amount tucked away in the financial markets (around 300k including pension) and have an aim of 3-4 years to amount enough to jack in the day job and live primarily off a £600k total equity fund (£200k pension, £200k property, £200k stocks). A great-looking site and expertly well written throughout. Check out their goal progress for some impressively high investment growth.

Get Rich Slowly

Not as colourful and addictive as many of the personal blog in this list, I grant you, but this site is jam-packed with many very well thought out educational articles and an abundance of sound financial thinking. The attitude is spot on – there’s no get rick quick, not without ridiculous risk. Absorb, commit to memory and move on up. Stuff of legends.

The FIREstarter

So popular he now appears ahead of The Prodigy song in Google search results! And, I believe the first of my top 10 to come from my part of the world, the UK. FIREstarter is a lovable, ambitious, smart techie. His site showcases all of those attributes and more, covering a vast range of wild thoughts, insightful topics and tips for owning your financial freedom.

Simple Living in Suffolk

Another from the UK. Whoo-hoo, we’re on a roll now. ‘Breaking free of the rat race and living intentionally’ is such a great tagline for this blog. Ain’t that the truth. SLIS is a wonderful storyteller and thought-leader – and all this from inside the mind of a former engineer! 😉

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Canadian Dream: Free at 45       

Blow me down, another engineer. What is going on in that industry? 😉 They’re clearly smart cookies. Primary author Tim Stobbs set out to retire early, at 55. And then pulled it in to 45. And now he’s targeting 40. Great evidence that once you’ve truly ‘awakened’ the possibilities of financial freedom are far greater than you could ever have previously imagined.

Go Currycracker

Right, first of all… what a great name for a blog? That’s what drew me in. What kept me there was Jeremy and Winnie’s incredible, inspiring drive to ‘spend little, save more, travel the world’. And that’s exactly what they do. The colourful ride is broadcast in full techni-colour glory right here.

 

The importance of NOT looking at screens

My typical working day has gone off the rails a bit lately. I’m all too aware I’ve become addictively hooked in to the internet. There’s barely a minute of the waking day that I’m not in front of a screen. My employer isn’t complaining, but it’s not good for the soul.

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Of my waking life, I calculate that most days I spend 13-14 hours in front of a screen. That’s in the region of 80-90%!

Generally, I’ll wake up 7.20 to the sound of my phone alarm. Pick up phone, turn off alarm, stretch, yawn (groan if it’s in the dark months of winter) and check emails for 15 minutes, soak up the overnight news headlines and scan US sports results. Then it’s up, showered and dressed.

As I make a tea for me and the missus I’ll check the weather for the day on my laptop, scroll through a few Facebook updates, make sure my downloads are running ok, then switch on the TV to BBC1’s Breakfast show. 10 more minutes glued to the TV screen and I’m off out the door, walking to the train station, checking more emails on my phone as I go.

On the train, the laptop comes out. I’ll generally spend the hour-long journey in to London bashing out some words for an article, a presentation or a robust email response to an over-heating work debate.

As soon as I arrive at the office I plug the laptop in and make a tea. I’m generally wired up to my laptop with headphones on for the next nine hours, bar the occasional toilet break and 30 minutes to grab some lunch, which is frequently in the canteen where I’ll unknowingly be magnetised to Sky News churning away on the TV in the corner.

On my way back home I check emails constantly on my phone to make sure there are no loose ends that need urgently clearing up and nothing new that’s come in from one of the senior managers that demands working on overnight.

Assuming that’s not the case, I’ll arrive home around 7pm and afford myself a luxurious 30-45 minutes away from any screen or communications device, other than the oldest one of all – simply talking. Shock, horror! I’ll discuss the day’s events with Mrs Money Giraffe as we muck about in the kitchen with the cats, open a bottle of wine and cook some food.

By 8pm we’re sitting down to eat – in front of the TV. We’ll watch an hour or two as we chomp and drink then for me it’s normally back on to the laptop to browse news, read some alt geek ideas on a random blog or place some sports bets.

We retire around midnight with laptop by my side. More of the same – web browsing, write a few more hundred words or so for work, catch up with friends via online chat. Then it’s a final check of emails on the phone before I set the alarm, turn the lights out and away we go to dreamland, all set to start another turn on the wheel of screen-addiction.

As I said, most days I spend 13-14 hours in front of a screen – in the region of 80-90% of my waking life. But why is this so bad? After all, I actually like many of these activities. I love reading blogs and staying in touch with the world, writing and learning. I could do with less time devoted to work duties, but that aside, I rely on screens for many of the things I genuinely enjoy. But still, I know it’s bad. I know it’s bad because it cuts me off from other ways of living, breathing, experiencing. I know this all too well.

The more time you spend with a screen, the less time you spend with people. It prevents you from relishing other wonderful facets of life that I know are there to be tasted every day – simple things like running up hills, listening to birds and trains, drunk-hugging a friend, lying in the garden or jumping around to a live band.

So as I (inevitably) sit and type the remainder of this article on the train on my way home I will resolve to NOT look at another screen tonight. And reduce my ridiculous screen consumption down to 60% a day on work days and 20% on weekends. There is a wonderful life beyond the screen. I need to go find it again.

Finally, a plan! 5 years to (semi) retirement

This blog has changed quite a lot in recent months. It started out as a bit of a playground for me to express finance related thoughts and ideas away from my day job as an investment writer. It was in some ways a trial zone for themes I wanted to discuss but couldn’t in my professional capacity due to the constraints of the brand I represent, my corporate identity or the industry regulator, the FCA. Sometimes all three.

Adelie Penguins Diving into Water (Composite)

Moving in to the investment industry two years ago (I’d previously had no interest in it or knowledge of it) turned my head, as you’d expect, towards my own finances. It soon got me analyzing my incomings and outgoings properly for the first time ever. It made me think about planning for my retirement. It got me calculating my rent as a percentage of income. It forced me to consider pensions, and with that, death. There’s been a lot of time pondering death.

I spent hours forecasting the second half of my life and always in a very cold, scientific way: estimating life expectancy, projecting property price growth by region, salary increments versus a potential rise in inflation and interest rates, the likely returns on a high risk portfolio over bonds for the next 10 years, tax breaks on a pension versus the accessibility of an ISA, and so on. Quite boring stuff really.

Time is money

But over the last 3 months my thoughts have strayed more and more to the emotional and holistic side of how money plays a role in our lives. As I’ve explored themes a little detached from this very sterile, textbook approach, I’ve found there are far bigger and more interesting questions to answer: What do you want to do today? What makes you happy? Who are your closest friends? Why do you only see them twice a year? Do you prefer light or dark, cold or warm, sex or love, food or fashion, time or money?

I want to understand the things I treasure most and do what I can to be around them as much as possible.  Consequently, a clear concept for me has now emerged and that is to find a way to NOT work as soon as possible.

I work with some good people and I earn good money, but if that money were no object I’d rather wake up slowly every morning with my wife, drink tea in bed, play with the cats, potter, do some light work locally to help a neighbour, learn a new instrument or a new language, fix something, go for a run, cook a lovely meal, drink a beer in the sun and meet up with friends. Now that’s a day.

This might sound like a retirement lifestyle. And if so, well, so be it – that’s what I want. But it’s unachievable right now. I can’t afford to give up my job. For a start, I’ve got a £1,700 a month mortgage to pay. But I want to get there as soon as I can. I think it’ll take 5 years.

The plan is:

1) Save and save damn hard (30-45% of net salary).

That should be ok. We don’t care much for posh nosh or fancy holidays, though we have forked out on them frequently in the past. It’s symbolic of the consumerist trap. You work hard to earn money to live well but then feel the need to spend it all on ‘treats’ in your spare time – to justify working so hard in the first place. But we don’t really need any of that stuff.

2) Move to one of the cheapest parts of the UK and buy a small home for us and a holiday let apartment.

Perhaps somewhere on the coast where there are good opportunities for tourist trade.

3) Compliment the holiday let income with some ebay selling, freelance writing, dog walking – whatever it takes really to get by.

This doesn’t of course rule out work completely but it means I can do it more on my terms, as and when needed. I figure we’ll need £1,500 a month for the two of us (and the cats). The properties will be paid for outright.

4) At 60, sell the holiday let and use it to top up our pension pot.

That’s it. That’s the plan. It’s pretty basic and still forming but it feels really exciting to potentially give up formal work at age 47. It also feels really scary and in some ways crazy to do so (can I really turn my back on a well-paid job?). But I want more than just a well-paid job. I want time.

The most exciting thing of all is that I have seen a new way of doing things, a new way of living. A way that is different to the blinkered 40-year city career path I’ve assumed is the only option until now.

Thinking about work and money and everything but

It occurred to me that I have been in some jobs that required 30 or so hours of effort per week, tops. Others have been a more routine 40 with the occasional late night finish bumping it up to 45-50. And some have been pretty much 24/7, all because my brain could never quite escape the to-do lists, the reports that needed doing, the team member who needed motivating, the budgets that needed slashing, and so on. It doesn’t matter if you’re not physically there, in the office, if your mind is on the job, so are you.

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All of a sudden that £50,000 salary doesn’t seem so generous. Sure, on a 40 hour week it works out around £25 per hour. Factor in holidays and it rises to £27. And if you’re lucky enough to be on easy street and clocking in no more than 30 hours a week – and all praise to you for that! – then it works out a tidy £32 per hour.

But if you are all consumed by work, rarely managing to free your brain from it’s gnawing clutches and even dreaming about work then your taking in a paltry £12 per hour.

Cash drain

I also spend a lot of time thinking about money. When we think about money, it’s often in a negative way: the gas bill is going to be huge this month, I shouldn’t have spent so much going out last weekend, I’ve got three birthdays and a wedding coming up, should I look for another job where I can earn more money? All very anxiety-driven stuff.

So I’ve started an experiment where I attempt to reverse my psychological approach to all things wok and money. I try to look more to the future and the things I want to achieve in life and how I could save enough to get there. Now when my mind wanders and lands on the topic of money, I don’t swish it away towards another train of thought, I embrace it. But I push it down the track of life, towards a bright, optimistic financial future. It gets me thinking about some wonderful opportunities, like moving to the coast or the hills, running a little local business, relaxing in the sun, or doodling in a nice little restaurant over a long coffee. Our thoughts define us. They shape our identity. It’s important to control them, else they will control us.

So far so good. The experiment is working well. I see a vast array of opportunities ahead.

Consumerism begins at home

I can’t deny it. Since moving out of our box-tight 1-bed flat in Camberwell, south London and into a 4-bed house 13 miles south in Whyteleafe Surrey (for exactly the same price) we have felt the need to fill that extra space with crap. I never thought it would happen. But it has. 

Consumerism begins at home

Room upon room of vacancy I’d never known before has become progressively populated with a wild variety of soft furnishings, musical instruments, a pool table (god, I love my pool table!), cat toys and all manner of utilities I never felt the need to own before, but now I have space for them I feel compelled to buy, buy, buy.

Addicted

I’ve never spent so much time on ebay. It’s horrific how we are so easily swayed by the marketing machinations infiltrating our new life. I work in marketing for god’s sake, I have done for years, and I still can’t resist the betterware catalogues and virgin wines vouchers and 30%-off B&Q mega deals on bank holiday weekends.

But, despite our recent ravages on the bank account and sometimes silly luxurious buys in jubilant honour of our new existence, I’ve started to notice that these things actually give payback. Well, kinda. What I mean is, the more time I spend at home, around my cluttered ensemble of shiny new products, the less money I spend in every other facet of my life.

In the box-room in Camberwell there was the chance to furnish it with lovely items but it was so cramped we felt the need to escape constantly. So we would be out with friends, in the pub, in restaurants, at gigs, away for the weekend at every opportunity. That makes your life bloody expensive. Especially when you’re already paying the best part of £1500 a month on rent.

Now, I may have just forked out £99 on a fancy bashed-metal circular table-stand but I will happily sit next to it for years to come, resting my cup of tea on it while we kick back and eat a good cheap meal at home, watch TV, chat with friends and play with the cats.

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Welcome to the cheap seats

As we’re spending so much more time at home these days, life has actually becomes incredibly cheap. I used to crush £150 on a regular weekend. Easy. Sometimes a lot more. Now it’s £30, if that. We do very little, and we love it. We hang about the house, have a few beers in the local pub on a Saturday night or go to a neighbour’s house for a party. So the payback has come thick and fast. And keeps on giving.

In all honesty, we need to trim back on both. I don’t really need stuff like the bashed metal table to enjoy my time back at base. I could be living the home life AND saving more cash to shorten my journey to retirement. But hey, one step at a time.

Wonga is evil and its senior employees are Satan’s minions 

I know a guy on the board at Wonga. He’s a good, solid businessman; an experienced blue-chip director with an impressive corporate track record. So why on earth is he at Wonga? I’ve been asking myself this every time I’ve seen him squirm in the media trying desperately to defend the operating model he presides over.

wonga5

I wish him no harm. He’s a good bloke – as much as I know of him. But I don’t get it and can’t help but think he is an integral part of the destructive and downright evil industry of which Wonga is the undisputed front runner. So I must admit I was delighted to read that the famous payday lender has been fined £30m and is considering an entire rebrand to relaunch the business following a catastrophic array of commercial disasters.

What Wonga do is plain wrong. Luring poverty-line families into spiralling, crippling debt with cheery, comical advertising and enough small print to drown a cat is an act of malice. What kind of sick people actually want to do that?

Crumbs of discomfort

I don’t care that they’ve been functioning within the law – thankfully the law is at last changing and taking a firm grip around the neck of Wonga and other like-minded (or mindless) loan firms – the truth is, you need a heart of stone to execute a business idea like that. Time and time again. And grow a huge business that is dependent on mis-communication, deceit, trickery and the financial desperation of millions of people.

I believe those that choose to work for them are therefore little better too. Now note I said “choose” to work there. Don’t get me wrong. Many people need any job they can get and I wouldn’t expect someone seeking out a £16k call centre job to help support their family and keep them in clothes and housing to turn down a job offer from the likes of Wonga. Needs must. But let’s go back to my man on the board…

Big bucks

This is a guy who was earning £400k in his previous role – I worked at the same company at the time, though sadly I was on only a fraction of his earnings. He amassed the same again in benefits, bonuses and pension payments. He left that job to go to Wonga, receiving a similar package.

He is clearly a commercial heavyweight. He could have walked into a whole host of great and glamorous roles. So why “choose” Wonga?

A former colleague suggested to me he had aspirations to clean up the business, turn it around and shape it into something sparkly, worthy and new. I don’t buy that at all. You can’t polish a turd, as the saying goes. In the core proposition of aggressive lending there are no ethics, or vague degrees of godliness.

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Cleaning job

I work in a part of the financial services arena that is far more stringently regulated and for a new innovative company that is honest, transparent and on the side of the customer. We face enormous pressure and interference at times from the governance of the industry regulator, the FCA.

It astonishes me that they are remotely concerned with triple checking the education logs of our ground level staff when there are issues like Wonga to confront. It’s akin to the age-old gripe of policemen pounding out needless paperwork for a petty theft when they could be pounding the streets hunting muggers and murderers.

As for the future of the industry, I hope the FCA moves a damn sight quicker than it normally does and stamps out the treacherous practices that still persist – for good. They are polluting and infecting the heart of our nation. And I would love to see high profile senior execs and board leaders from the financial industry – and beyond – make a public stand against such businesses to heap pressure on the government and the governance body to act once and for all.

Hey, leave our homes alone!

So the Tories are looking to scrap inheritance tax on homes worth less than £1m. While I applaud the move to culling this obscure, unfair tax for most, I find it despicable it’s still being enforced at all. I don’t care what you level of wealth you’re looking at – it’s an outdated, strange concept to me.

It shouldn’t be just property either. Why not kill tax on all forms of wealth inheritance?

familycash

Chancellor George Osborne has talked frequently of his plans to remove family homes worth up to £1m from inheritance tax which, as George says, “supports the basic human instinct to provide for your children”.

Stand and deliver

I couldn’t agree more. But why only on homes worth up to £1m? I don’t see it as something that can possibly be waived for one group and not another. It is a moral, ethical stance. You simply shouldn’t have to burden your kids with tax on anything you choose to pass on to them.

We live in an age where we are punished – or our living beneficiaries are punished – for inheriting the wealth we have worked so hard to acquire and accumulate while we’ve been alive.

You Cam talk

Prime Minister David Cameron seems to agree: “You want to know that even after you’re gone, when you’re not on the phone and not physically there, you can still provide for them. That wish to pass something on is about the most basic, human and natural instinct there is.”

But only up to a certain value, right Dave? Sorry, I don’t buy that one iota. I’m all for the fair sharing of wealth and anyone with a £1m home is no doubt pretty well off but you can’t say it’s a fundamental human right and then qualify who it will be applied to. That’s bizarre and discriminatory.

Pension chaos on the horizon

This, coupled with the new pension freedoms, is going to cause havoc. Anyone sitting on a half-decent pension pot is now broadly-speaking faced with two options:

1) Play safe and trade in your pension for a guaranteed regular income (an annuity) but know you’re unlikely to get full value from all your many years’ savings; or

2) Aim to eek out as much value as you can from your pension pot by spending it in your retirement so you don’t die sitting on a hefty chunk of cash that your family could be heavily taxed on when they inherit it.

Spend, spend, spend!

The big danger is that the majority plump for the latter. And while death and taxes are certainly the only two certainties in this world, as the old adage goes, you can never be certain WHEN you will leave this earth. I foresee a lot of people burning their pension pots dry in 20 years and then they happen to live another 20. Who’s going to pay for it? It will clog up government schemes to house and keep these people in their final years.

At the other end of the spectrum, those paying inheritance tax when their parents pass on, will not be able to sustain and pay for the millions living out those remaining years in abject poverty and utter misery.

One tax for all

It’s not a particularly cheery thought, I grant you. And there’s no easy solution. But I believe there is one way of making things much easier for people to understand, and to give everyone clearer responsibility for mapping out their finances. Have just one tax. Income tax.

Continue a graduated system of income tax, where those earning more pay more on higher amounts, and by all means increase the actual percentages, but keep it to just one tax. There’s no need for separate inheritance tax, VAT, or stamp duty when you buy a house – why on earth should you be effectively punished for that too? And there’s no need for national insurance.

As you earn your money you plan to accrue a certain amount that will see you through life and if you know anything you have left when you die will go to your offspring completely free of tax then you’ll not suffer that anxious dilemma of do I / don’t I spend the loot and get my money’s worth.

5 ways to unleash your entrepreneurial spirit

We all tinker now and again with the notion that a genius invention or innovative new business idea is lurking deep in our brain, just waiting to be let loose. But is it really there, or are we simply playing with the dream of becoming the next Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Walt Disney or Steve Jobs.

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There’s only one way to find out. Unlock the entrepreneur that lies within, in 5 easy steps.

1. Be wild, live free: See the world from every angle possible. Swim with the dolphins, live rough on the streets, volunteer for a charity, do bar work, get drunk, get high, jump out of a plane. Just not all at once. Strive to experience (almost) everything. There is always something new to be found and you need to give yourself the best chance of finding it.

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2. Change the world, not your bank balance: If you want to create the next big thing to become the next big thing then you’re doomed to fail. You’re missing the point. Start by thinking ‘how do I transform the lives of millions people?’ Strike on something that does that and you’ll get all the fame and reward you’d ever dreamed of, but don’t go for the fame and fortune first else you’ll be blind to the most bold ideas.

3. Emigrate: Putting yourself in the right environment, one that engenders creative thinking and champions boundary-pushing will help your mission no end. Some countries are simply better at producing entrepreneurs than others. The developed countries fare best. The US, UK, Canada and Australia fill the top four slots in the Global Entrepreneurship Index. Scandinavian countries figure high up the list too. Only two countries from the Asian world feature in the top 10 – Taiwan and Singapore. Economic growth giants Japan and China are threadbare when it comes to mercurial innovation and entrepreneurial genius.

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4. Make monumental mistakes: Think of it as progress. Make bold decisions and try everything – it’ll help you learn a lot quicker, it’ll shape your world-view and it’ll help break down the barriers of bias that are otherwise preventing you from seeing the light.

5. Don’t give up: The adage 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration was never more true than right here right now. Great entrepreneurs get kicked in the teeth time and again but they get up, roll with the punches and keep on fighting no matter what. Rejection is a minor hurdle to them. It will not dilute their determination. It is more likely to give them strength and a greater resolve to push on.