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10 things you can do today to reset your life

Author David Sawyer

This is a guest post by David Sawyer, author of the brand new UK-focused financial freedom book: RESET: How to Restart Your Life and Get F.U. Money. David suggests you don’t do any of the steps below while operating heavy machinery.

I have been on a journey, which led me – via my discovery of the largely US financial independence movement – to reset my life.

In my first book RESET, I draw on my family’s experience – and that of myriad academics, athletes, self-help authors, and philosophers – to present a programme for midlife professionals to, within a year, take stock of their lives and transform their futures.

The plan is multi-faceted but The Investor asked me to cut through the 373 pages, 511 Notes and 15-page index to give his readers (that’s you) – my top ten tips.

Here is my best shot. If you want the full bhuna, buy the book!

1. Find what matters to you

Life’s about being happy, right? Well, if it were as simple as that we’d all be eating junk food, glued to our smartphones…

What we’re really chasing is the meaningful happiness that comes through accomplishments, putting one foot in front of the other, deciding what we stand for and against, stepping up to the crease and showing folk what we’ve got.

People on their deathbeds regret unfulfilled dreams, missing their kids growing up, working too hard, not saying what they thought, not spending enough time nurturing friendships, and not realising there is another way.

Don’t be those people! Nail a clear vision of where you want to be when you’re financially independent (mine involves Andalusia) and work out what exactly you’re going to do to get there.

A measurable family mission statement pinned on the corkboard works well.

2. Go digital to future-proof your life

The increase in broadband speed this past ten years has changed the world and we’re all struggling to catch up. For many midlife professionals, going digital has become a stick to beat us with, as we fight to juggle the competing priorities of family, work, our God-given right to drink two overpriced giant coffees a day and that old lady who’s driving 20 in a 40 zone.

Working out a way to increase your profile by grasping the digital nettle is one of the best ways of enhancing your career prospects and getting more cash in. Read blogs, set up your own, start an email list, buy a giant bulldog clip and index cards to record and work out your worldview.

Commit to lifelong learning – or at least have a dabble for Pete’s sake. It’ll help your money, and your life.

3. Declutter

One of the best ways to do meaningful work, achieve things, to struggle every day to make yourself happy, is to declutter your life: digitally, mentally and physically.

The Internet is amazing, but when it comes to social media, it’s messing with our minds. Turn off your notifications, charge your phone overnight anywhere but your bedroom and ween yourself off those dirty dopamine hits (Ding, ping, whoosh: where’s my phone, someone’s contacted me, someone likes me. I’m going to get a doggie treat. Give. Me. That. Phone…).

Be mindful, offload on a friend, try adopting the Morning Pages habit. Marie Kondo your house. There’s a life-changing magic in tidying.

4. We’re rolling in it

As midlifers who always feel completely skint, it’s hard to believe that we’re rolling in it.

But say you’re a primary teacher on £30,000. That £30,000 turns into £23,780 after-tax. Did you know that places you in the top 1.18% richest people in the world?

Or how about the findings of Danko and Stanley in their unrivaled The Millionaire Next Door? Many people they interviewed with a net worth of $2m or even $3m got there on a joint pre-tax annual household income of $80,000 (that’s £56,000).

Our best chance of FIRE (financial independence or early retirement) is not winning the lottery (odds of 45m to one) but protecting the money we have and making it work harder.

Achieving financial independence is tantalisingly within our grasp. We just need someone to shine a light for us.

5. Do your stash maths

Maths, man. How did you find it at school? The biggest thing holding back financial independence in the UK is overwhelming fear of the morass of pensions, shares, windfalls and long-dead great aunty inheritances that comprise most people’s financial future until – in their mid-50s, often too late – they realise they better start thinking about these things.

All this becomes simpler when you do your stash maths (Mr Money Mustache devotees like you and me will be familiar with this concept).

Simply establish how much you need to live on per year after-tax when you achieve FIRE. Find what size stash you need to get you there. See what you already have. Then – based on stash-size required, frugality/efficiency of your family, target FIRE-date, and budget – identify how much you need to save every month.

Okay, it’s not quite as simple as all that, but working out these figures with your partner is fundamental to resetting your family’s life, and will give you great heart that your lucid vision will one day become reality.

6. Budgeting

No one runs a business without doing the numbers once in a while, so why do most midlife professionals have little clue how much ‘life energy’ is slipping through their fingers every day?

Why is our work more important than our one and only life? I calculated last year that every latte I buy adds 10 minutes on to my working week; I buy a lot less coffee now.

Let’s get something straight: this is not an anti-work manifesto. I love my job. But I’d much rather be doing it because I want to, not because, like most people, I need the money.

Budgeting is easy. Use Money Dashboard and a spreadsheet (I use Martin Lewis’s Budget Planner). Like Kiyosaki, track every pound that comes in and out of your pocket. You’ll soon be marvelling at your previous twice-weekly meals out at the kid-friendly posh café, because you were too worn out from your day’s work to go home and cook your family a nutritious meal.

7. Frugality and efficiency

I’m a PR consultant, my wife’s a social work manager. We live comfortably in an upmarket suburb of Glasgow. Partway through our RESET, we slashed £900 off our monthly spending. We allocated an extra £100 to our holiday pot, and invest the rest.

We’re not living on mung beans: we both work full-time, holiday six weeks every year and spend more precious hours with of our kids. This makes us happier.

Efficiency is a mindset. Once you reset, people who drive Range Rover Evoques will cease to provoke feelings of envy. Embracing efficiency will run through your life like a sinuous automatic muscle, affecting everything from where you place your shoes when you get in from work to where you shop. I recommend The LAHs (Lidl, Aldi and Home Bargains).

8. Indexing

What to do with your stash? Consider investing in a globally diversified portfolio of super-low-cost index funds and ETFs. Do so within your work-defined contribution pension, or when it comes to workplaces you left long ago consolidate them into your own SIPP.

Dabble if you must – some people are only human – but never invest more than 5% of your stash directly in individual shares.

Remember, when working out your appetite for risk, that your net worth is different from your stash – your net worth includes your house equity and any final salary pension, if you choose to leave it where it is (or can’t transfer it out). If you have, say, a final salary pension, house equity, and a mishmash of investments and pensions, split in equal measure, you may feel a little more comfortable investing 100% of your stash in index funds.

Always keep a disaster fund (accessible money, say in an ISA) that’ll cover at least six months of family living expenses.

And I assume, as a Monevator reader, your only debt is your mortgage.

9. Your legacy

Secure your legacy by sorting your life insurance, making a will, setting up a Power of Attorney, and ensuring that your partner is the beneficiary of any big money pots you have.

Teach your kids the magic of compound interest by transferring their child trust funds to junior ISAs and investing a la you, setting them up with a cloud-based tracker.

Did you know that a couple can pass on up to £1m to their children tax-free when the last man/woman standing dies? If you commit to getting rich slowly, your kids could be set for life at an age (averaging 61) when they still have time to enjoy it.

Crucially, there’s usually one partner who does the money and one who has absolutely no interest in all things investments. So make sure you take a leaf out of Mr Buffett’s book and, on your death, transfer your stash into something that doesn’t need any manual intervention from the surviving spouse.

For us in the UK, I suggest Vanguard’s globally diversified, reduced-UK-weighting, 0.22%-fund-management-charge LifeStrategy 80 fund.

10. Live a principled life

RESET is a coherent, super-detailed programme, backed up by more sources than you can shake a lightsaber at.

We all feel our own force: we are all made from a different kit parts. But there are a few common principles to living a good, meaningful and happy life. Never give a monkey’s what other people think about you, make time for deep work, be boring to be creative, work hard, act on enthusiasm and see where it takes you.

Use negative motivation to propel yourself and find somewhere you can test your developing worldview to see whether what you believe actually works in practice (my experimentation ground is running).

Resetting your life can be as long or short or complicated as you want, but do, please, consider it.

Never, ever, despite your outwardly successful appearance, accept that the hopes and dreams you had as a kid are gone forever.

Never accept that this is it, and just live for your family. It is never too late to RESET, even without the external force that commonly prompts a reassessment of what we were put on this earth to be.

Last, I leave you with William Ernest Henley’s fine words in Invictus:

“It matters not how strait the gate, or charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”

David Sawyer is an award-winning PR man and 2:40 marathoner. He lives in Glasgow with his family and hamster. RESET is his first book. Jacob Fisker of Early Retirement Extreme fame describes RESET as: “A comprehensive introduction to things you didn’t learn in school but should have.” The Kindle version costs just £2.95 this week. Or you can invest £10.95 in the paperback.

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{ 32 comments… add one }
  • 1 Dave Sawyer September 4, 2018, 3:32 pm

    Thanks, The Investor. Not blowing smoke…, but getting a slot on Monevator is like appearing on the Today programme for me. I’m off to tell me Mum, albeit I will be explaining it in the context of Radio Four. Cheers, was a pleasure speaking with you. And thanks for the opportunity to get the word out to fellow Monevator readers about a book I passionately believe in. Best, Dave

  • 2 dearieme September 4, 2018, 7:22 pm

    “people who drive Range Rover Evoques will cease to provoke feelings of envy”: you believe in setting the bar low, I see.

  • 3 weenie September 4, 2018, 11:25 pm

    This book will make a great Christmas present for a couple of my friends!

  • 4 Peter September 5, 2018, 12:44 am

    Great idea weenie – share the present between 2 friends!

  • 5 Alan September 5, 2018, 9:39 am

    Great article. lifestrategy 80 has 24% UK exposure – is there another version with less than 24%? Many thanks

  • 6 Gentleman's Family Finances September 5, 2018, 10:37 am

    It’s good to read this because I think that David comes across as being a normal person with a normal job but has managed to RESET as he puts it.
    Even better, he’s living in Scotland like we are! Which is a good change from a lot of the US / London based FIRE writers.

  • 7 Accidental FIRE September 5, 2018, 10:43 am

    Go digital to future-proof your life

    This one’s so important. So many people only use the internet for email or to watch cat videos on YouTube. The skills you can learn from a simple computer and an internet connection are endless, you just have to try.

  • 8 Dave Sawyer September 5, 2018, 11:12 am

    dearienne: not generally, but I have a thing (call it an anti-thing) about Range Rover Evoques. Weenie: great. Alan: 25% last time I looked but it does change a little. I outline five alternatives to the suggested RESET portfolio in the book. But, there’s a reason LS is first. Due to currency risk etc, most UKers end up having more than a 25% weighting in UK, albeit UK only makes up 6% of the world market. With LS, Vanguard is explicitly trying to wean UK investors off their natural tendency to overweight in UK equities, so I would say 25% is a good compromise (and who am I to argue with Vanguard:O). No. 3 on my ordered list of five alternatives in the book is Vanguard FTSE All-World UCITS ETF (VWRL); this has a 6.1% UK weighting. It includes exposure to emerging markets and the OCM is 0.25%. If you were leaving this instruction in your will (I suggest LS80 as an alternative to a manually-built six-or-eight fund portfolio only AFTER you’ve achieved FIRE – LS100 before), you could complement VWRL (80%) with a bond fund (20%), giving you a two-fund option. However, I would go for LS80 every day of the week. It’s cheap as chips for peace of mind and the automatic rebalancing. Hope this helps. Gentleman: where in Scotland? Thanks, yeah, I can confirm I am normal, albeit my mates might disagree:O). Accidental: there’s a 38-page section on going digital in the book. It’s been transformative for me, since I started dabbling in this area six years ago, then grew kind of obsessed with it. Hence the 38-page section in RESET. Best, and thanks for your comments all, Dave

  • 9 Jonathan September 5, 2018, 2:07 pm

    Your essential list misses out income maximization. That’s a serious omission for a financial-independence guide.

  • 10 Dave Sawyer September 5, 2018, 2:32 pm

    Hi Jonathan: I’d suggest you read the book for a better grasp of what it’s about: there’s only so much you can cover in a blog post:..these are the points I chose to highlight to readers of Monevator. It’s £2.95 (free Kindle app for your smartphone, you don’t need a Kindle device), the cost of a giant coffee. Best, Dave

  • 11 Alan September 6, 2018, 10:53 am

    Thanks Dave. Half way through the book. Wow! Brilliant. Really good. Any thoughts on a blog to support these concepts and models? Thanks again. Excellent work.

  • 12 The English Investor September 6, 2018, 11:09 am

    Points 2 (Go Digital) is incredibly important. It is easy to envy the income earned by people running blogs, instagram accounts or Youtube channels. But everyone can take a shot at starting something online. It takes time to build anything so don’t despair if progress is not immediate. You will discover an entire new world and the journey may turn out to be really fun!

  • 13 anon September 6, 2018, 11:46 am

    I second that comment that it’s good to hear of other Scottish FI-seekers.

    I’m also in Glasgow, already FIRE’d.

  • 14 Fork my Crumble September 6, 2018, 11:51 am

    Great post – looking forward to reading the book. Wow – a 2:40 marathoner! Fantastic achievement.

  • 15 John September 6, 2018, 12:54 pm

    @dearieme “people who drive Range Rover Evoques will cease to provoke feelings of envy”: you believe in setting the bar low, I see.

    I think that’s rather missing the point. The Evoque isn’t my car of choice, and it isn’t that expensive that most people here couldn’t humble brag about how having one isn’t that impressive to them; but the point isn’t that this is some high standard which anyone would be jealous of.

    An Evoque is a pretty good example for many people who are managing costs down, and aren’t that wealthy that a couple of thousand a year is inconsequential. My Focus costs perhaps £200pm in depreciation, insurance, servicing etc. When I see an Evoque it can occasionally make me think about how I could afford to drive around in a nicer newer car
    that appealed to me for £200-300 more a month, and how I work hard and ‘deserve’ it just as much as that Evoque driver; I don’t do it because I know the relative benefit of doing so is very limited, and the money I’m saving can provide considerably more value longer term, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a little jealous; and I think that will be true of a lot of people.

  • 16 Dave Sawyer September 6, 2018, 8:32 pm

    Hi, all. @Alan: what do you mean re: blog? Thanks, glad you’re struck by it. @The English Investor: couldn’t agree more. There are six parts to the book and that is one of them. @anon, kudos! Wow, someone else doing (done) this in Glasgow, excellent. @Fork my, yeah, last Sep. in Berlin, albeit pales into insignificance re: sheer bloody-mindedness needed to write a book. @John: interesting and detailed explanation. Cheers all, Dave

  • 17 weenie September 6, 2018, 9:06 pm

    Just bought for my Kindle – thought I’d better read before buying for friends!

  • 18 Katyburdy September 6, 2018, 9:58 pm

    Very excited to see other folk from Glasgow reaching or aiming for FIRE. I felt a bit old getting started at 52 but thought better to start than never at all; and have made great strides in the last year since discovering MMM. I have been doing the frugal thing and getting my books from the library but this I will buy as I’ve a feeling I’ll be highlighting and writing in the margins! I may ask the library to order it anyway so it’s available for others. Congratulations David and thank you for taking the time to share your journey and I love Marie Kondo too!

  • 19 Alan September 7, 2018, 6:40 am

    Dave – i saw you had a website for your PR company and a running blog but not specifically about the concepts in your book? Thanks again

  • 20 Dave Sawyer September 7, 2018, 7:11 am

    @weenie, quite right, and wise. Let me know what you make of it. @Katyburdy, it’s never too late. Haha re: margins, if my mother could see the defaced state of the books in my home library…but it makes perfect sense. For me, the purpose of reading a book is knowledge, and to decide whether I agree with it or not (and whether I’m going to incorporate any of it into MY view of the world). Marginalia helps a great deal. @Alan: thanks for getting back. I do have something for that, it’s my weekly newsletter. That’s where I tend to share FIRE stuff, among other interests. The sign-up forms are on my site, easiest reached from https://zudepr.co.uk/reset/ Running that newsletter for the past four years has really helped me work all this out, and was my favourite creative outlet, prior to RESET.

  • 21 A beta investor September 7, 2018, 8:51 am

    £200/m to run a Focus? That is £2,400/yr. I don’t think so.
    Insurance has to be at least £300, annual service perhaps £300 assume 10,000 miles a miles a year at 40 mpg means £1,400 on petrol which leaves £400 a year for depreciation and tax.
    Most cars depreciate by the £2,000 to £3,000 a year, although an Evoque would be a lot more.

  • 22 David September 7, 2018, 1:31 pm

    I read the look inside on Amazon – great quality writing, looks like a brilliant contribution to the FI/RE scene. You’ve obviously thought a lot about your target audience, we also had a light blue Vauxhall Chevette in 1983, lol.

    Is the book available anywhere else apart from Amazon?

  • 23 Dave Sawyer September 7, 2018, 1:58 pm

    @Dave, thanks, wonderful comment, it’s been a labour of love. Re: Chevette: remember the manual choke? I’m tied to Amazon for the next three months on the eBook. The paperback I can sell however I want. For the time being, that’ll be through Amazon. However, if you want bulk copies, DM/email me (email address/contact form is on my site). Again, ta very much for your kind words. Best, Dave

  • 24 David September 7, 2018, 2:07 pm

    Yes, our manual choke went loose and kept going in by itself which made the car stall. So we had to use a clothes peg on the stem to keep it held out. We still had the Chevette in 1994 when I passed my test and it became my first car!

  • 25 Dave Sawyer September 7, 2018, 2:10 pm

    @Dave, aaah, memories. Ingenious re: clothes peg. We sold ours in 1988 for £200 when my mum bought a Nissan Micra.

  • 26 L September 11, 2018, 11:10 am

    Another Weegie FIRE-seeker here, David could probably run from Clarkston to my house in about 10 minutes!

  • 27 Dave Sawyer September 11, 2018, 11:29 am

    @L: intriguing:O).

  • 28 Andrew September 11, 2018, 10:00 pm

    I thought the book was really good, and very ambitious in terms of the breadth of material you cover. I’m already doing quite a lot on the FI/efficiency side of things, but in a fairly unplanned manner, so will definitely adopt some of your suggestions to make my approach a bit more rigorous.
    One small point on the Vanguard charges you quote in the book is that there are transaction costs in addition which makes them a bit more expensive (see
    https://www.vanguardinvestor.co.uk/content/documents/legal/vanguard-full-fund-costs-and-charges-2018.pdf)

  • 29 Dave Sawyer September 11, 2018, 10:50 pm

    @Andrew, thanks, glad you got a lot out of it. And thanks for the link (really helpful), will investigate. Best, Dave

  • 30 E&G September 12, 2018, 11:09 pm

    Interesting article and as a long time lurker I, like some other contributors to the comments section, feel the need to congratulate my fellow Glaswegian for his work.

    I also feel the need to take issue with one of the comments above (about setting the bar low) which is indicative of the snobbery that creeps into too many discussions on FI and is pretty off putting to me and no doubt others who weren’t born with silver spoons and work for a fairly average wage. For me, a Range Rover Evoque is a bit gaudy but it’s definitely the aspirational type of car you’ll see on plenty of new build estates where the ordinary people inhabiting them are spending every last penny to keep up with the Joneses. Maybe your IT geeks down south are doing the same with Jags and the like but FI is a concept that works across the income spectrum and the guy taking his bike or a bus to work to save on upgrading for a second hand motor shouldn’t feel out of place when reading sites like Monevator. As it goes I am happy following Dave’s lead and running our 2014 plate Renaults into the ground and sticking what we save away into pots for rainy days and retired ones.

  • 31 Will September 27, 2018, 11:04 am

    Hey Dave, just bought your book and looking forward to ‘resetting’ my life so to speak. I”m a latecomer to the investing game but trying to put all tips into effect pronto to get my life and finances in order! Cutting my spending and increasing my savings is priority number one. At about 40% at the moment which I think is pretty good, but there is definitely room for improvement!

  • 32 David Sawyer September 28, 2018, 7:57 am

    @Will, take your time re: putting your finances in order. My book is great, of course, but this site is a treasure trove of information, and I’ve spent many a happy hour (days) rifling through The Investor and The Accumulator’s (and the commenters) combined take on UK FI and investing…THE best education on UK investing and FI you could ever dream of. Forty per cent! Chapeau, Sir. I’m a big fan of Lidl’s canned “mixed beans” but you can, I find, sometimes get too much of a good thing:O). All my best on what has been (and still is), for me, a very exciting “journey”.

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