Financially Free by Forty

Financially Free by Forty – practising for an early retired life perhaps?

Happy Tuesday to you all! Today we have the second ever incarnation of the BlogFAQ feature, with none other than Huw from Financially Free by Forty. There have been more and more UK based FI blogs popping up recently (or maybe I have only just found them… either way it’s great) and a lot have been posting some great comments, Huw is one of them. I also especially like Huw’s blog as he is roughly at the same stage of life and his FI great escape attempt (i.e: pretty near the start) so it is good to read about his thoughts and strategies.

Huw has clearly put a lot of time and thought into his answers so I’d urge you to make a cuppa, set aside 10-15 minutes, and strap yourself in for the ride into the inner workings of his mind:

Give us a brief intro to yourself and your blog, and what you are trying to achieve over there?

My name’s Huw, and my blog is I’m 31 years old, I live in the UK, and I earn a fairly modest wage (under £30,000 pa). My blog captures my weekly and monthly activity towards becoming financially free by the time I’m 40. I intend to do this by investing in reliable dividend paying stocks that have a history of growing year after year. I will then reinvest all of the income they generate. I plan on living a frugal lifestyle that will enable me to save over 50% of my monthly wage, which I intend to invest in dividend paying stock. I remain open to explore other avenues to generate passive income.

I will record all of the above on my blog, so everyone can see exactly what I earn, what I spend my money on, and what avenues I invest in. I’m an honest and open guy in ‘real life’ so it’s my natural style, but I think this transparency will help me to become more accountable for my actions, and will lead to better results. I want to show that anyone can achieve financial freedom and the blog will be direct proof of that.

I’ve only just started Dividend Growth Investing (5 months ago). I believe this is one of the unique features to my blog, as people will be able to see a full record of someone who’s just started out. It’s easy to relate to someone who earned less than £10 in one year (2013) in Dividends. If I were to become a millionaire in 10-15 yrs time, you could check in at any stage of my progress by looking through my blog and see exactly what I did.

How did you get into the FI/Blogging/Dividend Growth scene…? What was your motivation and did you have a particular “light bulb” moment? (For example, mine was stumbling across the MrMoneyMustache blog in early 2013 when searching for novelty moustaches to buy. True Fact!)

Ha ha. I can’t believe you came across the FI/Blogging/Dividend Growth scene by searching Novelty moustaches. That’s brilliant!

The ‘light bulb’ moment for me was finding the blog Dividend Growth Machine – It was the first time I came across Dividend Growth Investing (DGI). He was two and half years into his strategy, and his progress was so impressive. He went from $50,000 in March 2012 to $125,000 in November 2013 (20 months). He has a tab on ‘strategy’ where he describes what DGI is, and it just clicked with me, it made sense.

Prior to DGI, I was planning on saving cash to fund a buy to let property, which would eventually lead to a property portfolio. I was closing in on the total I was looking for to buy my first property, and I was on the look out for other income streams (preferably passive) that would help get me there. That’s when I came across Dividend Growth Machines blog.

I went from 100% property investing, to 50% Property and 50% dividend growth investing, which I maintained for 3-4 months, and just recently I decided to go 95% DGI and 5% Property. I still intend on investing in property at some stage, but I want to focus on dividends for now.

You are living a frugal life that is different to mainstream “consumers”, have you received much negativity from friends and family and how do you deal with that?

I haven’t received too much negativity to be honest. I get a lot of ‘you’re tight’ comments but nothing serious (I can totally relate to this 🙂 – TFS) . If anything, I get more credit for being the way I am. People at work still can’t believe that I’m walking just over 2 miles to work everyday in all weather when I have a car at home.

I haven’t had a lot of negativity to deal with so I haven’t thought a lot about how I would deal with it…… but I think I would just carry on regardless. I’m ginger, I wear glasses, I’m welsh (living in England), and I have a bald head – I’m used to people taking the mick out of me! When I believe in something it takes a lot for me to change my mind. I would need to be hurting people or myself for me to re-consider my strategy.

I have a sense of pride about how I can remain disciplined with different elements in my life. Whether it’s sticking to a work out routine, giving up alcohol for lent, or investing more than 50% of my wage. I like the challenge it represents, and I find it satisfying that most people can’t continue with these things on a consistent basis. I like that fact that I’m a bit different from most people!

Conversely, it’s also nice when you come across fellow frugal goers, and investors. We’re quite rare in the general public and it’s nice to share the same goals, frustrations and joys.

Switching quickly to a positive vibe (which you have deftly achieved already with your answer above!), have you had any interest from friends or family about what you are doing, and have any of them started picking up tips on investing, money saving and so forth?

My fiancé has probably been more influenced than anyone else as she has to live with me! She’s always lived very frugally since we’ve been together, but she didn’t give any consideration to investing and maximising her returns from her savings. She asked me for help not so long ago and I found she had 0.1% and 0.5% saving accounts with substantial amounts in. We consolidated all the money into the top paying saving accounts and she’s even started investing in FTSE All-share and S&P 500 index trackers. I don’t think she would have bothered without me telling her about the things I’ve been doing, and seeing the progress I’ve managed to make.

I recently had a catch up with a couple of old colleagues and the conversation got onto Sports betting. They had both spent substantial sums on funding their online accounts, and were doing so quite regularly (every month). I explained how I bet and that I’ve only funded my account once in 18 months. I told them about how I manage my bankroll. This interested them enough to ask me about how I handle savings, so I told them about all the investments I have and how they work. They’ve both asked me to spend some time with them at their houses to go through their finances. We’re yet to meet up, but I’m always happy to help people out if I can. Finances fascinate me.

What are the main things that have rubbed off, or have been easiest for them to pick up?

I’ve found the biggest influencers have been the things that are easier for people to adjust to. If you are already paying money for something, and there’s a way to pay less for getting exactly the same item, people become interested! The easy wins that tend to get attention are using cashback websites for purchases, regularly changing bill providers for insurance, electric, broadband, telephone etc and changing saving accounts to maximise returns.

My fiancé started using a monthly budget strategy I set up, as she saw the way I turned my financial situation around form being £1,000’s in debt to having £1,000’s of money in investments in just a couple of years.

Funny enough, I’ve had friends that are currently in debt, but have shown great interest in how I invest in shares due to the potential returns. They see it as a way out, but I’ve tried to influence them to clear the debts before looking into investing in shares.

What are your main methods for generating passive income?

As I’ve mentioned earlier, my main focus is Dividend Growth Investing. My next priority is investing in a cash ISA which will be used to fund my first buy to let property. I would like to eventually expand this into a property portfolio.

I currently invest cash into a regular saver account where I receive a fixed 5% (Pre-tax) return for 12 months. When the account matures, the cash will be used to invest in Shares and the cash ISA next year.

I’ve also invested in UK, US and International Index trackers. I’m only continuing to invest in the FTSE All-share tracker as it’s returning better than the cash at present, I might decide to invest more there in the future, but I’m currently using any disposable income for DGI.

I’ve invested in an income bond and an income fund, but I no longer fund these accounts. I’m also receiving monthly income from Peer-to-Peer lending, and I use the income from all of these options to fund my first 2 priorities.

What is your current Net Worth, What was it 5 years ago and what are you aiming it to be in 5 years?

Net worth 5 years ago:

Student loan = -£9,962

Money owed (Fiance) = -£500

Total = -£10,462

Net worth now:

Student loan = -£6,714

House (minus mortgage and split return with fiancé) = £38,000

Cash savings = £8,611

Investments = £9,379

Company Pension = £4,873

Total = £54,149

Net worth 5 year goal

House (minus mortgage and split return with fiancé) = £70,000

Cash savings = £10,000

Investments = £100,000+

Company Pension = £15,000

Extras = £5,000

Total = £200,000

What is your retirement “F-You Money” number, if you have this calculated already? 


I’ve based this on conservative numbers for now. If I spend £12,000 a year (£1,000 per month), and I’m receiving a 3% return on my investments I’ll need £400k to cover it.

This is a top end figure. In reality, I’m living on less than £12,000 a year and intend on reducing it further whilst recording my expenses on my blog. I believe 3% is at the lower end of what I would expect to earn on my investments, so if that number was at 4%, it would bring the number down to £300,000, and that’s a big difference!

£400,000 is the number I’m shooting for at the moment, but I think this will be adjusted closer to the time.

Do you employ any alternative investment strategies outside of the mainstream Property+ISA/SIPP/Share Trading Accounts?

Currently, I’m still receiving an income from Peer-to-Peer lending, I’m undecided on how I want to continue with that at the moment but it’s an option for me. (I would love to see a blog post on how you got on with this please! – TFS)

One future strategy is to try writing an E-book. I have such a great opportunity to try it out. My Grandad was a prisoner of war in Japan for several years, he helped build the bridge over the River Kwai. He unfortunately passed away 2 and half years ago. He was writing a story of his experience and was planning on publishing it, but never completed it. He gave my dad a copy of it, and reading what he went through is truly unbelievable! I would love to finish his work and get it out there for everyone to read. I wouldn’t care if I didn’t get a penny for doing this, I would just get so much satisfaction from completing it.

The experience I’ll gain from going through that process should help me consider this as an option for the future. I would like to own some sort of intellectual property, and it’s a bit of a dream of mine to write a book some day. The thought of helping others get out of debt and becoming financially free would be brilliant. I just need to get myself into a position where I have high credibility so people would WANT to read my story. Easy right!

I will remain open to other passive income streams, and no doubt I’ll experiment with a few on my blog.

You say on your blog: “I would like to reach a level of passive income that covers all of my expenses so I can experience all the amazing things life has to offer.” – What exactly does this entail? (Travel… etc…?)

I read Tim Ferris’s 4 Hour Work Week and found it very inspiring. I believe, like Tim, that life is precious and it’s there to be lived. There are so many things to see, people to meet, experiences to have, and I just want to take in as much as I can whilst I’m here. I believe financial independence will provide me the biggest possible gift, which is TIME.

I want to use that time to travel the world, and properly absorb cultures. I want to spend 3-6 months in the countries I visit to get the full experience of what a certain culture is like. I want to eat and cook their food, learn the language, play their sports, socialise with the people and take all the best things they have to offer to make me a better person.

When I’m not travelling, I would like to experiment with life here. I have a passion for trying new things and learning so I could see myself taking up new hobbies, developing my current skills, and helping others.

I would also enjoy just spend time with my fiancé, friends and family. Ideally, I would like to do all of the above with them to, as opposed to on my own.

You are currently engaged to be married, what does the future Mrs FFBF think of your plans? Does she also get involved in div growth investing, or any other aspects of your plans to be FI? Does she also plan to quit work and travel the World?

Mrs FFBF is very supportive about everything I do, I’m very lucky. I’ve talked her through DGI a couple of times now, and she does understand the strategy behind it, but I’m not sure she’ll get into it just yet. I think she’ll consider when I start to get nice Dividend returns and she can see it happening for real.

She doesn’t have any plans to be financially free by a set date like me, but I think she wants to join me in all of my travels and adventures. I support her in whatever her decision is, and I won’t be pushing her into doing anything.

I believe one of the best ways to motivate anyone is to lead by example. As soon as she can see the benefits to DGI, I think it will be difficult to resist trying it out.

I can’t see any mention of kids on the blog. Are they on the horizon and how do you think this might impact your plans to be financially free by forty?

We both want kids and I think this is something that will happen within the next 2 years for sure.

Maybe it’s a bit naïve, but I don’t think having kids will put a stop to my plans, if anything it will spur me on to make it. Mrs FFBF has a very similar mind set to spending than I do, if anything she’s tighter than me! So, I don’t see us spending a lot of money on ‘tat’ for the child, only must haves. My sister has 3 children and I’m sure there will be an opportunity to work together and help support each other with clothes, toys etc as well.

I’ve also seen a few blogs from people that are on the road to FI who are supporting families at the same time. It’s going to have an impact on it, but not enough to prevent me working towards my goal.

What is your number one money saving tip? (it doesn’t have to highest in terms of money saved, but just your favourite tip for any reason)

Good question! This is difficult as there are a lot of tips out there that are really beneficial.

I think my answer would be – Track ALL income and ALL expenses. Every little penny for at least an entire year.

This will provide so much information for you to take the next step. It will provide financial awareness of what you’re spending your money on and it can put it in real terms for you. For example, you’ll find out you’re spending £600 a year on Sky TV. Then you can ask the question is it worth it?

It will show you how much disposable income you have on average to spend and invest. If you continued to create that amount for 5 or 10 years what would you have? Are you happy with that amount?

I would suggest making this one of the first steps for anyone who wants to review their financial situation.

What are your three biggest goals for the future in the areas of your financial life, personal life, and your blogging life?

I love this stuff!


1. To become financially independent. To receive enough income from investments that cover all of my living and spending expenses so I can have the choice whether or not to work.

2. Own at least 1 x property to let out

3. Create a form of intellectual property that provides a passive income stream.


1. Release a book on my grandads story. (Not concerned about making money here)

2. Visit/explore a new country and a new part of the UK every year.

3. Physical – Back Squat 2 x my bodyweight (175kg). Perform 15 x consecutive Muscle ups, and run a 4:59 mile (Chin just hit the floor at that last one…!!! – TFS)


1. Continue blogging consistently (create 100-150 posts a year) from now until I’m FI.

2. Get to 10,000 monthly page views.

3. Get invited to do some additional writing for a website/magazine/company based on the work from my blog.


What are your favourite relevant blogs or websites to readers of theFIREstarter that they may not yet be aware of?

Website –

It’s such a fantastic source of information on anything financial. Its forum is also very entertaining and useful. This website changed my life 5-6 years ago, and if you are in financial difficulty or know someone that is, this website is a must for anyone in the UK. The site has several ‘tools’ that help everyday consumers. The Megashopbot for example compares a single item across the whole of the internet, so you can find the best priced item in one place. The weekly newsletter is also very handy and I still subscribe to it today.

Blog –

I stumbled across this website when researching Personal Development. Tims believes in spending time on items that provide the biggest return on investment in all aspects of life, including life itself. He’s an avid learner and developer of lifestyle design. He classes himself as a meta-learner, someone who has the ability to become very good at any given skill in the world in a very short space of time. This includes Latin Dancing, Kickboxing, Bodybuilding, gaining Strength, learning a language, playing the guitar, starting a $1m company, speed reading, sleeping, sex…….and the list goes on!

I admire the way he tries to maximise his time on earth, the ability he has to break down any task/skill and learn it in lightening quick time. He covers so many areas of life, I think anyone can find something of interest here.

Website –

Another life changing website for me. I’ve always enjoyed all facets of health and fitness. In the last 15 years of my life I’ve wanted to be a bodybuilder, power lifter, weight lifter, Marathon runner, Triathlete, gymnast, football player, and a basketball player just to name a few! Crossfit is the most comprehensive training program I’ve ever done and it’s something I will do for the rest of my life. It’s constantly varied, functional movement, performed at high intensity. It will help any ‘Regular Joe’ become an all-around athlete with gymnastics, weightlifting/powerlifting, and cardio vascular exercise.

What are your favourite book(s) and film(s) and why?


I have so many! I tend to read only non-fiction books as I love to work on developing myself and learning new skills. Here are some of my favourites:

  • Tim Ferris – 4 hour work week – It helped me review a life long career, create passive income streams, and mini-retirements.
  • Tim Ferris – 4 Hour Chef – It contains Tim’s formula for learning any skill. This can be applied to anything. It also has some nice recipes. (It isn’t a cook book)
  • Danny Wallace – Yes Man – Very funny book. Self experimentation of a man that went an entire year saying ‘yes’ to every single request. (Imagine not saying ‘no’ to anything?)
  • Napoleon Hill – Unlimited Success – 52 motivational articles which hold the key to wealth, power, happiness, and good health. It suggests reading an article at least twice a week before moving onto the next one.
  • Dr Steve Peters – The Chimp Paradox – A mind management program for confidence, success and happiness. It helps recognise how your mind works, understand and manage emotions and thoughts.
  • Jonathan Haidt – The Happiness Hypothesis – He reviews contemporary psychology and traditional philosophy to reveal what truly makes us happy.

Films – Check collection

I like a film to move me in some way, to instigate some form of emotion. I like many genres, here are a few:

  • ‘Manly’ films – Gladiator, 300, Rocky IV, Braveheart
  • Gangster films – Goodfellas, Casino, The Departed, Layer Cake
  • A thought provoking drama – Into the Wild, The Pursuit of Happiness, Seven Pounds, 21 grams
  • I love comedy – Anchorman (or anything with Will Ferrell in), Austin Powers, Step Brothers
  • Animation – Despicable Me, Up, Toy Story

Totally off topic but what are your favourite songs / bands? (I am always looking out for new stuff to listen to!)

Similar to films, I like songs that create or heighten a particular emotion for me. If I want to be calm, jacked up or I want to smile, I play music to fit that desire. Here are a few bands/songs I like:

  • Easy listening – Ben Howard (current favourite), Norah Jones, Melody Gardot, Jack Johnson, Bon Iver, Jose Gonzalez, Ed Sheeran, Eva Cassidy.
  • Dance Music – Calvin Harris, Example, Rihanna, LMFAO, The Prodigy,
  • Happy/Cheesy Music – Starship (We Built this city), Jermaine Stewart (We don’t have to take our clothes off), Alphabeat, Rick James (Superfreak)
  • Heavy Metal – Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, AC-DC, Guns and Roses, Jimi Hendrix, Foo Fighters,
  • Thought provoking – London Grammar, Bloc Party, Plan B, Alice in Chains
  • Legends – Prince, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra

I can’t help but like some ‘Pop crap’ too. Sometimes I just find myself dancing to One Direction (I’ve just lost so much credibility now haven’t I!)


Oh and it it was all going so swimmingly until that last sentence Huw! 🙂

In all seriousness, there were some cracking answers in there and a lot of food for thought. Personally, I feel I can relate to most of what Huw thinks about life, but whether you do as well or not, I think you can agree he is a very interesting character and his blog is worth checking out! (Here is the link again in case you forgot it).

Thanks again Huw, and good luck with your quest for Financial Freedom by Forty!