SMUG

As I thumbed through my news feed, the consensus was clear – everyone is depressed, the cost of living squeeze is hurting millions, and something needs to be done about it. But it feels remote from me, and I’m guilty of being SMUG.

The current list of problems in the world is unending. But it seems that the most immediate are the fact that the cost of living is going up and the quality of life is dropping.

Essentially, what we had on the cheap is now more expensive; what we had on tap is now restricted and what was working for us is now working against us.

I’m thinking, the food, shopping, the cost of heating our homes, car finance, public transport, the NHS, public services, mortgage costs, and house prices.

Yet, I’ve spent all of my life thinking that these things were expensive, and now I’m feeling justified in my poverty mindset. Tramp Angst is how Christopher Hitchens put it.

So, harbouring feelings of inadequacy, grooming grievances and feelings of alienation from the economy and its willing comsumerist participants has putme.in good stead, secure in my finances and more relaxed about what used to be obssessive. Except I’m not feeling that justified in my approach and my results, but I do feel that I probably come off as smug – smug to you the reader and to anyone who meets me.

Smug

I’m 40, have two kids (who ever said kids were cheap?) A lovely wife, good friends, and stable everything else; life is pretty easy. I feel that I’m comfortable, have no real worries, and barring something catastrophic happening, we are set for life.

But I know it’s tough for everyone else and I emphasise, but it feels like a different world.

Maybe part of me feels that I’m looked down upon by those that are worse off. I don’t give off the airs and graces of someone who’s rich – I’ve cultivated a “millionaire next door” look and I don’t want to try to impress anyone. 

The Great House Price Reckoning

Perhaps the biggest scare that will hit the middle-aged and middle class is that property is not a royal road to wealth but instead penury. Stories of “I bought for £XXk and sold for £XXXk” will become less common. The number of people reaching pensionable age with massive mortgages is increasing, and the most common use of equity release is to pay off the mortgage.

If interest rates stay at a (still very cheap) 4%, then who can really afford a house costing £250,000. The interest (real or inputted) on that is £10,000 a year. When everyone is broke and even teachers and police are using foodbanks, how sustainable are unaffordable living costs.

Friends of ours looking to buy an average looking home for £600,000 a looking at £2,000 a month in interest.

Dropping prices back to where they were 5 years ago still leaves them massively more expensive than what is affordable and means massive equity loss for the millions of people who’ve had it easy for years – and don’t know just how bad things.

The wave of home equity was like a morphine daydream to millions. Your house worked harder than you did and made loads of tax-free money! There are more homeowners in the UK than ISA holders – think about that for moment.

My own view is that this current cost of living crisis is just the first time that everyone (not just the poor who have felt the squeeze for over a decade now) is feeling the pinch. It’ll only get worse, over time. Not all at once but when the cost of life’s essentials, shelter, food, warmth, health, are getting more expensive (and precarious), the next crisis just waiting to happen – like a viscous game of Jenga.

Even if you do have your house paid off; and don’t have to either rent from a landlord or rent from the bike, you can’t eat equity and you need a reliable income stream to survive. Property alone is not the Royal road to wealth (this is a fact known by the rich).

Sadly, millions of British people are going through their lives without any significant net worth, a problem for millennials whose rent pays off another’s mortgage

Perspective

There’s a big difference between worrying about the Amazon being cut down and living in the Amazon and having the loggers getting closer every day.

It’s the same with a lot of things. Perhaps the biggest thing was the war in Ukraine; we took in a Ukrainian family last year as a way of helping, but there’s still a huge difference between the minor discomfort of having to share your home and sitting in a cold bunker without any electricity, listening to bombs in the distance.

When you are insulated from the evils of this world, it’s hard not to be wrapped up in your own problems and indifferent to others. “I’m alright, Mack” is how you could put it.

So, GFF is fine – don’t worry about me, but do look after your own situation, your own finances, and make the foundations in 2023 for a better future.

Thanks, GFF.

7 Comments

  1. It does feel like a different world. But I’m not unaffected so am watching my pennies (ie spending) a bit more these days.

    I’m not in the same league as you in terms of earnings but I was just saying the other night to a couple of other FIRE peeps that my concern during this ‘cost of living crisis’ is that I’m going to have to cut back on the amount I’m able to invest, which will impact my FIRE plan. First world problems indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First world problems was another name for the post, except I don’t have any problems 😜

      More seriously, cutting back spending (or investing) means very different things for different people.
      I’ve cut our heating usage for the war effort but we spend a lot more on travel (holidays), and there’s a big difference between heating vs. Eating and having to choose between Cornwall or Corfu.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. > and stable everything else

    Looking back I think this is the key. In my early working life sharing with others I’d often end up moving at a time not of my choice, and the costs associated with that all add up. Although I bought at a really mad time I just about avoided getting into trouble.

    Nowadays both housing and work are much more transitory, and must add up to a significant involuntary change-of-circumstances tax on people. It’s very different from when you decide to move or change jobs for your own reasons, because you can prepare and balance the costs and benefits at your leisure

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Venn Diagram of work, home and life makes finding something that works for you (and for the rest of your life…)

      I tried flatsharing when I started work but unlike where I studied (Belfast, lots of terraced houses), there were just a multitude of Scottish tenements (1/2 beds and a housing shortage) and I couldn’t find anywhere to stay.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s nothing to recommend flatsharing apart from the reduction in costs. I got so hacked off with it in London I eventually rented a bedsit just to get away from moving because other people changed jobs/shacked up/whatever. Particularly if as a young pup you do your flatsharing with mates, because you then spend the money you save by flatsharing on beer and gigs as well as the mating game. The trials of being young, single and footloose…

        The bedsit was dear, had no bog and only a Baby Belling pie heater as well as an invasion of black slugs and eventually I asked myself the question am I too poor to live in London despite having a decent job? The answer was yes so I got another job with more pay in Suffolk. And then paid far too much money for a house because I was sick of that moving on other people’s say-so game.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Suffolk (or Somerset) is cheaper than London that’s for sure, except that’s a like for like basis – and a dearth of opportunities.
        Maybe this FI malarkey is just “I’ve done my time, now I’m going to live my life”
        Nothing beats living in a nice (enough) place and not having to worry too much about things.
        I don’t think that I’d have the same carefree attitude living in London (even on 2x salary) now or if I was 15 years younger.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s