Buying a 2nd home for nothing

A Coastal Folly

One thing has, after all, led to another. Against many years of better judgement, Mrs FvL and I have taken the plunge and bought a second home on the UK’s south coast. Our Coastal Folly.

This blog post tells the story of how I’ve paid for the Coastal Folly. I’ve surprised even myself with how it’s happened.

The Coastal Folly is expensive. Well over £2m of property. It is not a little 2 bed cottage 20 minutes drive from the sea. It is a premium piece of real estate, with uninterruptible sea views.

As a second home, it attracts additional stamp duty (the property transaction tax payable in cash to the government at completion) – for this value of property my stamp duty is well over 10%. A lot of people I know froth at the mouth at this level of stamp duty. Not me. My portfolio has benefited from low investment taxes. And most of what I spend my money on incurs 20% VAT. So having to shell out 12-13% purchase tax on a discretionary purchase, using money that has been taxed at 0% or 20%, doesn’t feel unreasonable at all to me.

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Feeling rich

Throughout my past N years, I’ve always been a saver.

I find being frugal pretty easy. Not at the Warren Buffett level – I have changed both car and house a few times now. In fact not even to the level of my parents or grandparents (who were very much the war generation). But between me and Mrs FvL, I have always been the saver.

My expenses have been well above the national average for years, but much of this has been discretionary around two or three particular themes – travel, dining out and gadgetry. Over the years, lifestyle inflation has crept in. My ‘standard’ restaurant meal out in London now costs £150 for two – whereas not too long ago £90 would have covered most eventualities. But I have avoided too many fixed costs – and I have always had the mindset that if times were hard I could change down gears and still lead an independent, fulfilled life.

Something has changed this year. I’m not quite sure what, but it is probably some or all of the following:

  • 2021 has been something of a bumper year for my net worth, driven both by market returns and also a couple of income/angel investing windfalls.
  • My spending has dropped significantly since Covid-19, with travel and dining out both being massively curtailed in London at least until recently
  • I have an increased sense of my own mortality – partly due to catching Covid-19, and partly due to the passage of time / friends getting cancer / similar. I’ve been playing the FIRE game for 9 years now, and during that time my net worth has grown dramatically, and my expected remaining life span has shrunk significantly.
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Nov 2021 – Omicron emerges

I never studied Greek. But I thought I’d learnt of most of the letters of the Greek alphabet by the time from my secondary school maths/stats education.

The full Greek alphabet

So this ‘omicron’ variant has befuddled me. It turns out that the Greek letter looks like a lower case o, so it would have been the most confusing thing ever in my school maths classes – thank goodness I’d never come across it (nor all the other variants after Delta) before. Now I’m trying to avoid coming across it in a different sense.

But it’s not just me that has been befuddled, it turns out, because the stock market has been almost as befuddled by the recent developments. But as the month turned out, things looked fairly straightforward – equities down, AUD down, and safety (gilts & USD) up.

Market movements in November ’21, constant currency

My overall return for the month was actually up slightly in the month, with currencies and my tech stocks helping counteract the hit from equities. My subportfolios tell a slightly more granular story:

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