Hello! My name's Huw, and I'm the writer behind FFB40.
I launched the blog in March 2014 to track my progress towards Financial Independence (FI). I started at 31 and my goal was to try and reach FI before the big 40, but you probably got that from the blog name.
I managed to achieve FI in 2016 at the ripe old age of 34.
How the hell did I do that?
My strategy was simple....
- Reduce living expenses: With a lower cost of living, I wouldn't need as much money to live on. I could then use the extra money I saved for step 2.
- Invest 2/3's of my wage: Invest my disposable income into UK shares that paid consistent dividends every year. I would repeat this process and reinvest all of the income until the dividends covered my living expenses.
- Earn more money on the side: To speed up the FI process, I would explore ways to earn extra money on the side and invest the profits into buying more dividend paying shares.
You can read through the whole process on this blog. If you don't have the time or inclination, here's a brief summary to bring you up to speed.
Prior to 2014
My first priority was to 'Live on Less'. In the previous couple of years I had used Martin Lewis's site to help me eliminate my debt and bring down my living expenses. I still think it offers the best advice on consumer spending in the UK, and it's my first suggestion to anyone looking to 'Live on Less'.
Money Saving Expert might as well have been my homepage for 2012-2013, but now my expenses had plateaued. I decided to search online for more options. I stumbled across a few blogs that would end up having a massive impact on my life:
MMM retired in his early 30's by saving the vast majority of his wage and investing the money in Vanguard Index funds. He retired in 2005, and started the blog in 2011 to share how he did it. What I liked about MMM was the groundbreaking information he shared on all things to do with money, and the way he made saving cool and fun.
DM also retired in his early 30's, but this blog differed in that it documented his journey towards FI. He also lived VERY cheaply, but Jason invested his disposable income into dividend paying stocks. Jason was earning around $45k a year and yet still managed to save over 50% of his wage. I started tracking his progress each month and saw that he was managing to save 60-80% of his wage, and he shared how he did it. This blew my mind!
The inspiration lead me to create my own blog. I wanted to track my journey to FI, and bring some people along for the ride. Perhaps I could inspire other people to do the same thing, and if nothing else, it would be cool to look back on the progress over time.
So I started Financially Free by 40.
I started FFB40 in March and used it as a platform to experiment. I sold my car, got rid of Sky TV and documented every penny that came in and out of my bank. These changes made me nervous and I wasn't sure I wanted to do them, but MMM was right. Not only was it OK to live this way, my life actually improved.
By the end of 2014, I achieved my initial goal, which was to see if I could live of £10,000 a year (£833 per month). This gave me a lot of confidence. My dividends were providing an income of around 4-5% a year. At 4% I needed to invest £250,000 to earn £10,000 to live on. This was a lot of money, but totally achievable.
At the time, I was earning around £25,000 a year and managing to save around 70% of what I made. I knew my wage was slightly better than average (but nothing special) and my saving rate was high. If I was able to earn more money, I would be able to invest all of that extra cash and achieve FI much sooner, so I searched for opportunities to earn more money on the side whilst holding down a full time job.
I came across people who were Self Publishing books on Amazon and earning $10,000 to $20,000 a month (yes, a month!). I didn't know if it was a scam or not, but if I were able to earn just 10% of what they did it would be worth doing, so I gave it a shot.
I set a goal on my blog to publish 50 books and earn £1,000 per month by the end of the year. I had writers to do the writing for me, and a cover designer doing the artwork. I just put it all together and promoted them.
I released my first book in January, and continued to hammer them out. I knew quite early on that I was onto something. I was earning almost a 100% return on my investment (ROI) within the first month, after that it was all profit.... and I was just starting out. What could I do when I knew what I was doing!
In July, I earned more than my living expenses publishing books part time and I decided it was worth attempting to publish books full time, so I quit my job (that I liked!) of almost 8 years to see what I could do. I left my job in October and worked the last few months full time. In December alone I earned almost £5,300. OMFG!
Throughout 2015 and 2016, I continued publishing, 'Living on Less' and investing whatever I made back into shares.
I branched out to coaching people on how to publish books, but the workload was too much. I hired a friend (I previously worked with) to help me run the publishing business, while I focussed on coaching people. After several months it became clear that the coaching required more time than I was giving to it, but the business was suffering with my lack of guidance. I was stuck.
I reluctantly decided to end my business partnership, which was a difficult decision because it was a dear friend, and dedicate more time back into my publishing business. My coaching stopped, but so had my confidence.
During this transitional period, my blogging friend, Guy, from Early Retirement Guy and Matched Betting Guy, helped me get into Matched Betting. I wanted to know there was another option for me outside of publishing, just in case it all went to pot. For several months, I dedicated my time to MB and it gave me the confidence I needed. I knew that in the worst case scenario, I could cover my living expenses doing MB.
I was earning just under £1,000 per month, but I had to work very hard to get those returns. Publishing books was far easier, more passive, and the income was significantly higher. So, I stopped MB and went back to publishing books.
The following month, I earned more money in publishing than I had ever done so before. I brought in over £8,000. My confidence was back and so was the money! Perhaps I did know what I was doing after all.
During the last 10 years, I was in a relationship with the love of my life, Lou. She was fortunate to have inherited a house (without a mortgage) in Cambridge back when we first met. When I had my 9-5 job, we discussed the possibility of moving down there several times. I even wrote a blog post about my dilemma. We decided against it in the end, which was mainly my decision, because I didn't want to live without our house, the area, my job, my friends, my family etc.
In 2016, Lou brought up the option of moving down there once again. Now that I had my own online business, I could live wherever I wanted. We could cash in on the house sale, invest the money, and we could both be FI.... or very close to it.
After much deliberation, we decided to go for it.
In November 2016, we sold up and moved our lives to Cambridge. We've invested most of the money into buying more shares and we now live mortgage free. The house sale afforded us the privilege of becoming Financially Independent.
Throughout these 3 years we haven't touched a penny from our investments. We continue to invest in shares every month to ensure we have a significant surplus of dividend income to live on when the time comes.
Most importantly, Lou and I work out of choice rather than circumstance. She works 3 days a week and I work from home.
So what next for FFB40?
Now that I've achieved FI, I want to spend my time helping other people achieve the same thing. None of what I've done is complicated, but that doesn't make it simple.
I plan on releasing my course 'Innovative Self Publishing' which will share how I've earned over £100,000 publishing books on Amazon. I'll also create more content on this blog to help others save, invest and earn more money on the side.
Thanks for checking out my blog!