Archive | May 2015

#10 (2015) The Self Employed Home Owner – Myth Or Tangible Reality?

Last October David Cameron described small business owners as “national heroes”. I don’t feel like a national hero.

The reality is that self employment may be at a high, but poverty for those in work means many self employed people are not earning enough to live on and probably never will. I suppose in a way that does make us all national heroes. After all, we make the country look good. And we make the Government look like it knows what it’s doing. The nasty statistics which marr its image just get swept under the carpet.

Aside from the general income problem for the self employed, there’s the housing problem. If you are part of a couple and your partner is employed, you can probably manage a place of your own to live in and possibly to work in as well, keeping office costs down.

But if like me you are a single, self employed person in the early years of a new business, things are not easy. For the first 3 years of business I lived in house shares. I slept and worked in one room for 3 and a half years. Don’t ask me how I did it, I have no idea.

I relocated not so long ago to a bigger thriving city. I have kept up the house share charade but managed to get myself a separate place of work. Yes Manchester does have affordable space. At the very least I have work/home life separation. And even if my living space isn’t great, work is more satisfactory. To a certain extent I have a better quality of life.  At least when I have to suddenly move house shares because of horrible situations (I won’t put up with anything) I only have to move me, and not an entire business  – all 277 sqft of it.

Of course ideally at my age I should not be sharing with a bunch of strangers. Seven moves tells me this is never going to work. Realistically I have two options out of this situation – to rent my own place big enough for me to work in and ditch the studio. It means working from home again but means I can consolidate my finances. Secondly, I could get a mortgage. Realistically that’s the sensible option. But it reads like a comedy. Self employed + mortgage. You are kidding right? Well yes of course I am kidding. What hope in hell have I of ever getting a mortgage?

The stupid thing is, repayments are far cheaper than rent. I pay £370 a month for a houseshare. If I rent a 2 bed place of my own, it’s going to cost me in the region of £450 but if I dump the studio it just about balances out. Theoretically I could get a mortgage for less than £300 a month. So close, yet so far out of reach. It almost makes no sense that they wouldn’t lend.

I am surviving off my income but any mortgage lender would chuckle at my tax records. I get by, but I haven’t actually paid any tax in the nearly 4 years of my business’s existence. For the three years before that I was at Uni so it’s been a hell of a long time since I last contributed to paying back the deficit. Even though I worked in good jobs for the 20 years before that.

Right now, I am thinking of consolidating everything and renting my own place at some point this year. There aren’t many I can afford but if they’ll have me it’ll work out the same as me working from home so I won’t actually be spending any more than I do now. But it’s going to take time to find the right place.

In the meantime, I am still in house shares. I am already on the move to my second permanent home since I moved in January (and my third residence since I got here). It just doesn’t bear thinking about.

19 Things To Look For In A Partner That Have Nothing To Do With Sex Or Appearance

This is a very long shopping list of wants in a relationship and you’ll be lucky to tick all these boxes. Anyone this perfect has a secret lurking somewhere. A great relationship can deal with the flaws as well as the perfections. No 5 is a biggy for me though. Never get with someone who’s looking for a crutch to improve their own life. These people are everywhere and they’re not always easy to spot. Get a balanced view from friends and family. Being blinded by love will make these people harder to spot!

Thought Catalog

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1. A strong sense of character. They are steady and certain in the knowledge of who they are. They’re always willing to learn and to grow and to improve. But they will not compromise their values, their beliefs, or their integrity.

2. Chemistry. In the bedroom, it’s great. But it’s just as amazing to feel a strong pull to them when you’re taking a walk through the city or you’re just sitting at dinner together, having an everyday conversation and not wanting to be anywhere else in the world.

3. A strong desire to listen to each other. Not just out of obligation, but because you believe you have a lot to learn from one another.

4. A sense of humor. They don’t necessarily have to be hilarious, just capable of laughing at themselves and appreciating lighthearted moments with you.

5. Someone who’s complete on their own, who wants you…

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#9 (2015) What The F*** Is Happiness?

Did you read about Mattieu Ricard? He’s the happiest man in the world. Why? Well when you read the article and then read about the people trying to ‘bottle’ his happiness you’ll understand what the big difference is.

He’s a monk in Nepal (perhaps not the happinest place in the world right now) but his corner of it seems tranquil enough. He sits in meadows, he meditates. He looks at the view. And he teaches miserable people how to meditate as they clamour to work out how to be happy whilst still keeping up with their modern lives.

The cavenous gap between him and the people who want his secret is money, industry, modern life. But instead of embracing it, they want to extract the essence of it and weave it into their pressurised, greedy lifestyles.

Money makes the world go round. It dictates the lives of everyone, except perhaps a monk meditating in a meadow. And no matter how much you might say money is not the thing that makes you happy, without it right now you would be miserable.

I can’t deny a bit more money would make me happier. I’m not struggling to eat enough to remain alive or pay my rent but I certainly turn down a lot of social opportunities, holidays are rare and I’m certainly worried about my retirement and whether I will spend the rest of my life living in unsuitable houseshares to get by. It’s a risk I took when I decided working for myself was far less miserable than a string of depressingly monotonous office jobs making big bucks for other people. But am I happier than if I’d stuck with the day job?

The happiness factor affects your mental wellbeing, which in my mind is far more important than the physical. If your head is in the right place, everything else will somehow follow. I have friends with terrible bad luck. But they are naturally happy, optimistic people. And so it just kind of rolls off them like water off a ducks back. I absorb it, and worry about it. And I hate that.

Adult life has sapped the creative enthusiasm I enjoyed up until my twenties and contrary to what you might see of my work on the internet, I struggle to be enthusiastic or creative a lot of the time. I don’t have enough happiness escapism. Maybe I should buy a caravan and every weekend go out into the country and just ‘be’.

So some more money would be good. But if I lived by a meadow, meditated every day and lived off the land, I wouldn’t need to worry about any of those materialistic things in the first place. I wouldn’t worry about whether my business was going to survive the next Conservative government, or if my Tesco Value diet was going to kill me before age 65. And I wouldn’t be doing all this social media rubbish that is eating away at my self esteem and personal downtime but is the cheap alternative to all those other things I just can’t afford right now.

If I believed in God, I would be seriously contemplating becoming a nun, but since I am content with the notion that when I die I will be eaten by worms and that is all there is, it seems like a bad place to start.

If money were no object, I would live on a big country estate that was self sufficient in every way and rescue battery hens. Because what could make anyone happier than saving the lives of animals facing certain death.

And it’s the realisation that this is what might be my key to happiness, that makes me less and less content with the life I currently lead. Because it means the answer is to give up everything and go out into the world without all the things we’re told we need.

But should I stop complaining and just make the best of it? Should I just suck it up and get on with it. After all, it could be worse. I could be terminally ill, or living in cardboard box. But then, there’s always someone worse off than you, no matter how crap your life is. I could be my housemate who lives one of the most miserable existences I’ve ever had shoved in my face at close proximity. But it’s all of his own making so I have no desire to help him. I just want to not be around him. Because being around him is just making me unhappy.

Maybe the key to happiness is not having to absorb all the negativity in the world. If I stopped watching the news, listening to the radio and ditched social media at least I wouldn’t be absorbing all the bad stuff that clouds our lives. But is that the responsible thing to do or is there happiness to be made from trying to change the world?

Or is the key simply to have a lot of positive friends and make the most of it?

#8 (2015) Tenants Rights – Do You Have Any?

You’ve moved into your new houseshare. The initial meeting went really well. You seemed to get on. The house looked great! It’s a live in landlady so you think you’ll be in a better situation.

You hand over your deposit and first month’s rent, sign something she downloaded off the internet that resembles a tenancy agreement and hopefully sit back and relax. But now that you are here what are your rights and what if things go wrong?

There’s a lot of fuss made about landlords being screwed over by unruly tenants but what if you’re a decent tenant duped by a landlord who just wants your money.

There isn’t any rule for landlords to be registered. A private landlord who has a couple of lodgers in their home may not be declaring it as earnings and will probably want you to live how they live. It may be you don’t get any say on the use of heating, you may not be able to have visitors or they might charge you per night anyone stays. You may have someone who likes to snoop around your room when you’re not there. And having a lock on your door won’t stop that.

Very very few of my landlords have ever asked me for references, credit checks or a DRB. As a tenant you can’t necessarily ask those things of your landlord or ask if they have done checks on other people you may be living with. As a tenant have you even considered vetting your small private landlord before you move in? Your safety is important. You are going to be sharing your personal space with these people. You need to know you can trust them.

I’ve discovered all sorts of things about people I’ve lived with. Unspent criminal records for fraud, tenants who have attacked other tenants in previous houses, people who don’t give any thought to stealing your food if they’re running low. I’ve even seen other people stealing food off my plate when my back was turned in the kitchen. If I wouldn’t do it to you. Don’t do it to me.

Whilst I consider Google my best friend when it comes to finding out about people, often you won’t know enough about them to check until you move.in. Your decision to take up residence is largely based on a single visit to a house, a quick look around, and a chat with the person that shows you. Rarely will you meet other tenants and you certainly won’t have much time to go away and think about it. There’s always someone else looking for a room. Largely I find the initial meeting deceptive. I go on what I can see but leave the rest to chance, because you have no idea how things will be once you’re in there. Things might work smoothly for months before problems start to surface.

Here’s a few tips I’ve learned over time from my wide experience of being a tenant.

– Find out as much as you can about your landlord before you move in. Most people these days have either Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin. You can get an idea what they do for a living and the sort of things they post online before you get to the door. It can be a good giveaway as to their personality.

– Go with your gut instinct. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right.

– Don’t settle for second best. If you don’t like the set up or the look of the place, or you find the rules unfair don’t feel like you should take it. If you do, you might find yourself looking for a new place almost as soon as you move in.

The ‘Rent A Room’ scheme is different  to living in a house share. In a share you live with other people all in the same situation. You have tenancy rights as per the agreement. In the Rent A Room scheme your landlord is live in and can dictate to you how you do certain things. They can ask you to leave the property for a certain amount of time if they have guests or are away on holiday. You will always be a guest in their house and may never feel like you can call it home.

On the upside, if you get a good live in landlord you could end up in a cleaner, nicer household because they may have standards they want to keep up. Do be aware though not all landlords have personal standards! Hopefully you are also less likely to get rogue tenants if the landlord has to put up with them. If there are problems with a tenant, they will be there to witness problems and deal with issues and you won’t have to get involved.

I’ve only ever had one full time live in landlady and it was definitely a better set up. Living in houseshares with other tenants only opens you up to problems. Many landlords who are not live in won’t care so long as the rent is paid on time and you don’t trash the property. If the boiler breaks down, it’ll take longer to fix. With a live in landlady if something goes wrong, they are also losing out.

The downside of living with your landlord is being on best behaviour, but that will largely depend on the person you live with so make sure you have something in common and can get along on a certain level.

He’s Only Dating You For The Money, Honey

Male freeloaders are far easier to find than you might think. If you’re a responsible empowered woman there are plenty of spineless men out there waiting to bask in your shadow. You become a money magnet and it may take several goes to learn the lesson. But don’t worry, you will!

Thought Catalog

Flickr / Tax CreditsFlickr / Tax Credits

It’s official. The age of the female gold digger is over. These days, it’s men who are dating women for their money. So, how do you know if a man is after you or your wallet?

1. You’ve got sugar-mama potential.

Whether you’re a partner in a law firm, a successful entrepreneur or simply one of the many women who is very good at her job and is well-compensated for her skills, any lady of means is a possible sugar mama.

It’s not just women who are successful in business. Recent widows and divorcees can become providers as well.

“Perhaps [the potential sugar mama’s] spouse has died, and she was left a significant amount of money. Sometimes, she is financially secure due to her divorce settlement. Other times, she’s the successful career woman,” says dating and relationship coach Julie Spira.

2. He pays for things…at first.

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