Thursday, 3 June 2021

FI60,26 - Free (terms & conditions)

 Yeah, no, I couldn’t be bothered to count my money on the first of this month. So many good things happening at the same time!

I got vaccinated (got the ‘flu’ for a few hours and a sore arm for a few days but no 5G so that was sad).

The weather went from 12 to 25 degrees C in a few days and it finally stopped raining. From late winter to high summer in days.

Therapy is wrapping up with highs and lows.

I have a new ‘job’ one day a week, doing my profession in the context of my hobby. That will give me identity, structure, connections and development enough for the future. 

The old job is being wrapped up without disagreements (fingers crossed).

Taxes are paid.

Physical stamina is in development and weight decrease in progress.

The balcony garden is growing nice salad for every meal and other veg for later.

I have a good stack of books to read and write about.

The man has been awarded the Order of Saint George for support in slaying the dragon and saving the princess. I have given him an IOY for six months of unwavering support to use whenever.

The FI-number on 3 June (not even end of office) is 60,26. This is assets divided with the new annual budget, meaning it will last me beyond my life expectancy (if interest and dividends cover price increases). Since I live below my annual budget, unless something unexpected happens most should already be included in the budget, it should be ok.

Saint George and the princess are waiting for full vaccination impact but it looks like life restarts around summer solstice.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

FI58,69 - Fit-ish

Spring is fickle and April is unpredictable.

We have finally been able to take our touring bicycles down from their wall mounts. I have squeezed the corona weight into the padded bicycle (elastic) bicycle shorts, and gone out for trips. Some shorter just for a change of scenery, some long and lasting a full day. Spring is here after all. We are still limited to where we can or want to go, primarily by people behaving irresponsible, but there is still plenty of unexplored territories within the 40-60 km radius. Polders, ik hou van jou.

It takes time to build up physical fitness. The pain eventually turn into muscle and stamina. Keeping at it with varying amounts and intensity is the only way to do see change. Lycra is elastic and hides many more sins than one thinks. In the Netherlands, cycling is the standard means of transportation. Most people cycle everywhere and in all weathers. Very many also cycle for exercise, and quite a few are dead serious about cycling professionally or at least obsessively.
It used to be common to see people dressed in full business gear, high heels and all, cycling to work with laptop briefcase in their bicycle bag and the tie flapping over their shoulder. Bicycle gears are optional and rare for city use. Stable granny-styled bikes are needed to survive the parking situation and, at least in Amsterdam, to order manoeuvre the tram tracks. Most business people are still working from home and those going to work do real work and does not dress up for it.

Nobody has been anywhere for a year, and everybody has full cabin fever, lappsjuka.

We are old but still so far, too young for the vaccination programs. The man is hoping for an invitation by the mid month and if all goes well (knock on wood) we should both be vaccinated by the end of the month. The invites are sent out by birth year so it is the access to vaccines that is now the only obstacle.
If I would get corona now, it would feel as if being shot on Armistice day.

The financial situation is progressing as the markets have been rising the passing month. It may be the last large rise, it may be going into recession from next week. My personal FI-number is 58,69 following the increased annual budget since the beginning of this year. The FI-number is the sum of all my assets minus my debt (currently only some taxes) (excluding house, car, jewellery because I have none of that, and also excluding pension rights as I do not control them), divided with my annual budget. The FI-number shows how many years I can live on my current assets under the condition that cost increases are covered by interests and dividends in the future. The FI-number exceeds my life-expectancy so I am unconcerned but very grateful.

The mental situation is progressing. I am doing therapy and it is as everybody knows, THE MOST difficult thing you can do in your life. It takes real bravery. It does get worse before it gets better but it does get better. Hard, hard, hard but progressing. Slowly.

I have managed to get some focus back so I am slowly trying to progress with some sewing projects, to get them finished. The green shirt and the green sports skirt and the brown vest are all staring at me. My dear old scatter brain wants to sew something new, new, new, new, but I force myself to quiet down (I only allow myself to make patterns, not actually cut fabric for new projects before the current garments are finished).

Society around me is slowly opening up. Shops opened this week (with restrictions) for the first time since January. Bars were allowed to open for a few hours if serving outside (and many other restrictions). People are flocking to the terraces even in the rain, as if their lives depended on it. The third wave is coming and only the fast advancement of the vaccination program will reduce its impact. People are going mad, and I am hovering indoors away from them. All societal interactions are still on-line with rare and short accidental meetings with neighbours.  

In 2019, we scheduled today as the first day of our next great adventure.
We are not going on any adventures today, and possibly not at any time in 2021.
Our only goal is to survive and so far we are doing well (-ish).
Liberation will come.
Until then, on 4 May, we will remember the dead, deported and suppressed through a national remembrance day. The day after, Befrijdingsdag, we will celebrate the liberation of the Nazi WWII occupation.
Hiding from corona has been simple in comparison.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

ERE2 - Stuff

 Decluttering and managing stuff

http://earlyretirementextreme.com/day-2-decluttering-and-managing-stuf.html

This step on the road to ERE (or FIRE) is not about how to buy stuff cheaply. Buying, even with discounts, is not about managing stuff. It is not about storing. It is not about replacing.
This step is about knowing what you own and using it (up). This is about organizing, managing and letting go of what is not useful. This step is about Not Shopping, at all if possible.

I went through this step of managing stuff and uselessness in 2010, and again in 2015 (text in English here). It was each time a long process of organizing and let go of a lot of not-necessaries. I de-cluttered my life in 2008, 2013 and 2019. Each time dropping about 70% of all belongings. 

Now in 2021, I mostly own only stuff I like, use, will use and care for. I could probably pack up and move myself anywhere with a few days notice and using only a car. However, I still regularly go through my stuff to know what I have, rethink what I use and appreciate what I own. I make sure it still works and is safe. I do not really clear out to de-clutter anymore and I do not throw out anything functional. 

I organize and I use up. I am not a minimalist. I am a frugalist.

I use what I have. I burn my candles, use my fancy soaps and wear my silk shirts. I cut and sew the gorgeous fabrics bought on trips and I drink the souvenir teas. Exquisite matches from Shanghai an Rio di Janeiro light our candles and burn bad smells. Last years seeds, both bought and collected, are grown this year too even if we had planned differently. I only do the activities I have the items available for or can get in the food shop (easy to promise as all other shops are closed here and have been for months, delivery services over-whelmed and I hate post-order crap).

I do own and keep things that I have no real use for, just because I like them and already own them. I keep them so that I can use them when I want to. One example are ski clothes and the cold winter jacket. I now live in the Netherlands and skiing is rarely offered. But when it was, I could quickly say yes (although the ski trip had to be cancelled) because I was ready. Also, when the temperature dropped to minus 10 C for the first time in three years (mid Feb this year), I was comfortable. 

While going through all winter clothes, a lovely yellow winter scarf was looking a bit noppy. It should be a simple job for the little de-nop machine but I could not get the thing to work. I took it apart and after half an hour, I knew it was impossible to repair it (and why). The electrical parts went to the electrical waste collection. Instead I dug out a comb and a razor blade came out. The scarf is now fine and I hold less unworkable electronic stuff.

Similarly, our towels were looking a bit sad and the question about replacements had been raised. A bright flash of inspiration, and we gout out the beach towels to use instead. We are not going to go to the beach with towels in a long time and possibly never like that again. Now we towel ourself with huge things of the highest hotel quality. It is wonderful. I sewed a decorative seam on the old towels which are kept for other uses, to remember that those are stinkers.

This task has also prompted me to take a hard look on using some of the unusable heirlooms I store. I especially think of my grandmothers prizewinning home woven towels from home grown linen, still with the tag on them from the 1931 county agricultural fair. (True.) Some have been damaged in storage and will be used directly as soon as the current kitchen towels wear out (which came used from an office I temporarily worked in).

I also think of my aunt’s broaches that I love so much but rarely use. I also think of my dresses from India and Guatemala that I don’t wear but appreciate. I do however plan to unpack my first editions of my favorite books and read them as the author saw them first published. I also hold a lot of books but very few films, even less cd's, and just a few cassette tapes. All are reread, re-watched and reheard on the well maintained old audio equipment needed.

What I clearly do not need, I sell, donate or gift. I provide things to the neighbourhood free book cases, the free stuff boxes around the town. Within our house, it is not uncommon to offer furniture or books to the neighbors and we traded a bookcase for a bottle of wine with next door’s before corona. I have sold some items online making some unexpected money from nothing. Just the last two months, I have created at least a cubic meter of extra space in our apartment.

For this (first?) corona year, I have worn a very limited number of clothes, and I am happy to say that I have finally worn them out. I am also very happy to have stored a bag of good clothes in the larger sizes that I a few years ago, managed to come down from. The illness/lockdown/winter weight has made me needed bigger trousers. It was lovely going ‘shopping’ among old favorites. It was even more wonderful to be comfortable wearing jeans again. Feeling comfortable makes me feel like moving more and going out on safe walks an cycle trips. It may not do a lot for the weight, but one issue at the time. I am thinking the worn out clothes, all black and grey, could possibly be cut up and sewn into a patch-work blanket, but I am not sure I need another blanket. Any reuse ideas for office trousers worn shiny and baggy like pyjama’s? The fin, functional and good quality office clothes, now a size or two too small that I bought for the new job in 2019, have been packed up with everything else in that size. I do not need it now.

What I need will be provided for, possibly also by the trash goods. I live in an affluent country in a generous city. There is a tradition to put your un-wanteds on the side of the road and there is a tradition to pick it up. The lilies of the valley do not spin, so to say if you are so inclined, and I will not worry about it. The Calvinist-Weber group of philosophers are horrified but that is their interpretation of their holy texts.

In the last years I have completed several projects with free or already-paid-for stuff, using it up and finishing it off.

Neighbors left over paint renovated my little apartment for free.

Bright silk curtains to liven up living room came from a free cycle site.

Used shoes in favorite discontinued brand was bought from a second hand site.

Wants have been snatched up when available in second hand shops, such as a running jacket.

Finding stuff for free or cheaply is not the issue. The attention need to be brought to not acquiring stuff for free or cheaply if it is not needed.  I have more project to do and will tackle one item at the time.

Keeping the burden light, makes movement easier.
The moving mind is eased as soon as the stuff is manages.

If you think you are ever moving on, clear now and to be ready for opportunities. The stuff you hold will block or burden you from that move. It will make it more difficult to accept opportunities when they arrive. The stuff may trap you from your dream.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

FI57,54 being myself

 "Cosimo [Medici, 1389-1468] the head of the family, was particularly fond of living in the country and used his time in his villas to demonstrate to the rest of the world the simplicity of his republican lifestyle. Clad in the simple grab of a country dweller, he loved to cultivate his own garden. He would prune the vines while his in-house scholar, Marsilio Ficino, read aloud to him from the works of the Greek philosopher Plato."
Text from: 15th Century Paintings by Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen. Illustration:Procession of the Magi, painting by Benozzo Gossoli, 1459.

I dream of gardening with a philosopher reading to me.

I have decided to come out and proudly be myself. I am an intellectual. There, I said it.
I will no longer hide behind superficiality and contemporary superficiality. I am coming out as a liver, lover and reader of poetry, art history, philosophy and science of society, sociology, history, geology, geography, machinery, physics and history. Money is a means and I have paid enough for mine.

I love deep thoughts and knowledge. And trains. I love trains, especially steam trains. And pumps. Wind mills. Most mechanical machinery. Some chemistry. Most research methodology. Some philosophy. I loath Aristotle.
I love breathing. And thinking. Thinking and breathing are my favourite things to do.
So that is what I will continue to do.

We are adjusting to the near future.
There will be three months of intensive therapy to deal with the work-burn-out (hopefully).
There will be around three more months before we can be vaccinated (fingers crossed).
I hope these three months will give the physical ability to exercise again so that at the end of the three months I have managed to build up some stamina again.

Then - after those three things and three months from now - our next life phase will begin.
The FIRE - ERE - FI phase of our lives.
We are adjusting to the astonishing realisation that it will be here soon.
Enough time to finish those last corona-projects.

For the last ten years, on the first day of each month I have counted my assets. This month the financial powers that are, the financial markets I don't care much for but happily use, have provided an All Time High. The total amount of financial independence is 57,54 years. It is beyond my life expectancy. 

I calculate this FI-number by counting all my assets that I have control over (excluding pension rights). I would not include a house value as I always will need somewhere to live (but I don't own the house where I live). I would deduct all debt in my name (but I don't have any currently, even all taxes are paid). Then I divide the assets with an appropriate annual budget (including taxes) and this is in my situation the annual budget I lived within before corona. (Of course currently way to big but that is going to be temporary.) (It is!) The result is a description of how long I can live on my assets without income (hoping that value increases, interest, dividends will cover cost increases, inflation and any financial losses).

The FI-number will keep me in learning, in books, in running shoes, in bicycle and in vegetables for the rest of my life. Beyond that, I only need the man. And he pays for his own stuff with his own FI-money.


Monday, 1 March 2021

FI53,37 - mindfull travels and growth

 On the first day of every month, I sit down with my accounts. I go through my assets and add them all together. I currently only have a small tax debt to subtract. The full amount divided with a reasonable, and actual, annual budget. This takes into account future cost increases (hopefully covered by dividends and interests) as well as taxes connected to the realisation of some of these assets. The result gives me a financial independence number (FI for short) and financial peace of mind.

Currently the FI sits at 53,37. This means the assets covers a modest lifestyle for as long as I shall live.

There is however nothing to spend money on currently. We are in continuous hard lock-down, everything except essentials are closed, and who ever is out on the streets are people I do not want to be within a whips distance of. I do go out every day and go cycling within my means every day with good weather.
It is however not good times for nervous people.

I am continuously on sick-leave with increasing health issues. The investigation into the source of my illness is indicating that it is work related. (Duh!)  The conservative government of this country has established financial protection and the income still keeps coming. I try not to think too much about it as any form of frustration or anger is entirely unhelpful.
Money is also not an issue. I tire quickly both mentally and physically. All tasks are limited to about three minutes and one thing at the time. I search and find as many joys as I possibly can.

The first little seedlings have looked up and plans are made for the summer.
We hope for vaccination before June but will not start waiting until September. Until then we will not be away any longer time, if at all. (We will not leave the region before vaccination. It is simply not worth the risk.) The benefit of that is that we can be watering plants safely through the season.
So, there will be a balcony garden this year too. 

I grow the seeds I already have available. I have harvested all sorts of seeds from the fruit and vegetables we have bought over the winter. Big fat red and yellow bell peppers have given seeds which sprouted within days. It remains to see if the seeds are fertile enough to give fruit. But I will seed more of them.
We bought some big Roma tomatoes for our End of Year party and some of the seeds were dried and saved. They sprouted within days. Tall, powerful, forceful. I have had to move them into a cooler part of the house to not grow to big, to quickly. I rejoice in their growing power. Again, it remains to see if they will give fruit.

It is really a little too early to start seedlings here in the Netherlands, especially since we have no green-house or even outdoor space with wind protection.  The joy of growing is worth the risk though. I will advance slowly and seed more later on in March.

I try to use my limited focus abilities on random short learnings. I read books about geography, geology, history of science and art. This naturally leads to theology, medicine and poetry. Eclectic but not random.

I own an art book with a label stating that it had been bequeathed to The Linen Hall Library in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1941. A bit of research gave me the history of the library, the full identity of the donater, the original owner, and a picture of the castle where she once had lived.
Grand, I'm telling you.
Way fancier than the bookshelf in Amsterdam where that book currently lives. Through maps, I walk her hills and look at the views where the book once sat.

The book has no real value beyond the knowledge it contains and the history it represents.

I value intellectual stimulation higher than financial independence but does not pay rent so not included in the FI-number.

Monday, 1 February 2021

FI52,36 - just the same of new

It is the first day of a new month and I count my money. The official money counting day is the day I go through all my assets that I have control over and summarize them. I count this in the same way every time, a system that took a long time to set up around 2010 and remains unchanged since then. I do not include pension rights outside my influence, property value as I will always need to live somewhere (and no longer own any property) or any other assets of value (which I have none, including no car).
The sum is the value of my assets and exclude taxes or fees generated if these assets are to be converted into cash. The value of my assets are divided with my annual budget.

My annual budget is an almost hypothetical amount of money I need to finance a full year with this current life style. It is not the minimal amount of money I need, but a realistic amount of money I will need to spend if most goes well and according to plan and some things goes badly. 

The annual budget contains the monthly fixed costs for living where we live, an estimate of food costs, an amount for monthly pleasures and an amount for personal pocket money. I live with the man and we share joint costs through a bucket system. The personal pocket money therefore covers things that only I use. It is personal travel costs including cost and repair for my bicycles, my own mobile phone and its use, clothes, and health costs including eyes, teeth and personal health insurance costs. And sweets, that is my own personal expense.

The total sum of assets are then divided with the annual budget which gives me the number of years I can live on my assets, with the condition that future value increases and dividends cover future cost increases and taxes. The number is my Financial Independence number, FI for short.

For years and years I have used a specific monthly amount as my annual budget. This has been used as the basis for my FI number in all previous calculations. Most years I have spent less than budgeted (as I should). I can see that there will be years when the budget could be stretched to cover some known expenses. A new fridge, bicycle or a dream trip for example. 

Of course I am cushioned by savings but all expected expenses should be budgeted. Otherwise the annual budget is a pretend budget for living the normal life with a cushion on the side for all those luxuries which are unobtainable for people who involuntarily have similar budgets.
And that makes this voluntary poverty I have a bit hypocritical.
So the annual budget will be increased to cover all repair, replace and disaster costs which can be expected, as well as the cost for executing some of our dreams.
The new annual budget is also to prepare for inevitable cost increases in the forthcoming years.
I expect to keep this new annual budget for more than ten years (or possibly reduce it again).

The Financial Independence number is with the new budget FI 52,36 (old annual budget for reference would give a FI number of 64,45). It means that I have fifty years of my annual budget covered. 
Fifty years is beyond my life expectancy. I have no intention of leaving any inheritance. There are also pension rights which will be paying out eventually (unclear how much so not included).
I think I can consider myself FIRE and ERE and financially independent.

Which is good, because I am not going back to work when I am recovered and my sick leave ends.

Teeth is the body part I prioritize the most in financial terms. The long-term goal is to keep my own teeth my whole life. My budget itemise teeth specificity so that they each year get everything they need. Tooth brushes, tooth paste, floss, dental sticks, mouth wash (NotListerine!) and of course dental hygienist and dentist appointments. Twice yearly visits is the plan.
I have kicked off 2021 with a dental visit and I left with flying colours. Well done me, very good, nothing to say and I will keep my established routine for the next six months.
(During this visit I was closer to another person other than the man, then I have been since February 2020. It was a bit scary but very professional protection performed on all parts. For the next visit, I hope we will all be vaccinated [fingers crossed, knock on wood, salt over the shoulder, and an offering to the Norse good of teeth and health Freja and what other superstitions will need to protect me from the wrath of the Greek hubris]. By then I hope a new normal behaviour will have been established.

I have not seen the full cost for this dental visit yet but as I had budgeted for actual dental work to be done, and actual work was not needed, the budget result so far is money not spent this year.
Buying and using daily teeth cleaning paraphernalia really pays off.
My teeth are my own and nobody will take them from me.

My goal is that my teeth will last me another 50 years, just as well as my money.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

ERE1 - Home

ERE 1 - Finding a place to live

This part one of the 21 steps which I have vaguely had as a guide for my financial development towards financial independence. They are written by Jacob Lund Fisker as part of the so called Early Retirement Extreme project. It can be described as a way to get rich slowly by a two-front approach: Save and Reduce spending. I went through the steps in 2010, and again in 2015. (link here to a non-English text).

They are more pointers to help and adapt than guidelines or instructions. The advice are written in 2008 so adjust and update before making any decisions. The ideas will always need individual adjustments anyway.

The first one is called Finding a place to live and can be found here: http://earlyretirementextreme.com/day-1-finding-a-place-to-live.html

2021, I am not looking for anywhere to live. After fifty years of moving around the world, I am considering myself settled. I am staying with the man and we are staying (forever) in the inner city rent controlled Amsterdam apartment, the man moved into in 2006, and I from 2010 gradually moved into. 

We may go live somewhere else for a while, but this is our permanent forever home. We are not renting it out or taking in room-mates.

The cost of living here is in part financial, compensated by savings, and in part what it cost us to get here. We have a fixed cost post in our budget for housing.  

The financial cost is rent, heating, electricity, insurance, taxes, broadband etc. The sum of all costs is identified as an average annual basis. It is researched annually looking for discounts or behavioural changes. It is tallied up divided by twelve months, and then again by two persons. Once all of that work is done, the knowledge is used to calculate the annual budget for the next year.

The cost to get here was paid in time, suffering, homelessness (official only), uncertainty, fear, patience and determination. The waiting time for an apartment like ours is more than fifteen years, unless you are officially homeless, living without hot water, organized with a huge network and desperate determination. That was the man. Then I came in, cleared, renovated, structured, networked the neighbourhood and anterior many years, we live in an enviable apartment on a top location with lovely neighbours.
We made it happen. It did not just happen.

We would like a garden, a forest and a tree house.
I want to own land that I can use freely but I don’t want to pay for it and I don’t want it to possess or make demands on me.
We will settle for an allotment, and endless cycling&camping. 

We would like to live a month or so at the time in many different places. We have been to live short term in several countries together already and hope for many more. Although we like to travel, we like even more to live in different places. With a stable home base, it is easier to be free to roam.

2015, the story was vastly different. Reading back to the 2015 post, I am surprised how... 'difficult' my life sounds. I am glad for the memories what it was like in 2010 and I relish the experiences I have had. It makes my current situation much easier to deal with. It isn't luck, it is hard work.

Who knows what my thinking now in 2021 will sound like in another five years or so?

My advice to you is to just identify your cost of having a place to live, and summarize all costs into one sum, which is then your budget. This calculation can take months or even years of adjustments before you have what you will consider a final number.  Don’t be hard on yourself. Give yourself time to add or not include what you consider cost of living. Counting in the same way each time is more important than how the sum is calculated.

Do this step first and only this. Dare to know your full cost of living. Then you could reduce, rethink, amend or adjust. Without knowledge of your factual cost of living, you do not know if an opportunity which presents itself is going to be more financial or not.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

FI63,79 but not free

 2020 was an lovely year, if I squint with one eye and close the other.

Firmly focusing on the positives, I will look at some targets. 

Free time and travels: I sat at home from end of February for the rest of the year. From March on, I left my neighbourhood only on my bicycle (twice on train for essential visit to an authority). I like my home, my flatmate (aka the man, the partner), and my neighbourhood (Amsterdam centrum). We have room for an office and we have a balcony for gardening.

Working at home is fine for me and I thought it was an easy way to collect income. Then the bulldozer micro-manager was promoted to my manager and the workload tripled with halved production. The candle started burning at both ends and I got scorched. Enter sick leave. I left before I burned out, but it was still too late. I am well taken care of, but clearly burned out. My new daily task is to recover. It is a job in it self and does not happen without attention.

I work hard to recover but I will not even try returning to work. I will just calmly walk away from the flesh eating tigress while maintaining eye-contact. I will collect salary until the day I leave voluntarily.

Health and teeth: I have been healthy, except the three illnesses (one unknown flu, one sinuses infection and one burn damage). While firmly focusing on the positive, I will say that I am healthy. Daily walk, daily exercises, daily meditation and home cooked vegetarian food is in the agenda. I’m not sure if it would have been enough to go un-scorched through the pandamNic year, but it sure does help the general good lifestyle.

I did have one teeth cleaning appointment, I am still to have the annual dentist appointment. It is (currently) scheduled to be mid January 2021. It needs to happen. This is one of my spendings.

Clothes & shoes: I have worn the same three pairs of trousers the entire year, and perhaps five shirts. Over and over again, day in day out. With slippers. Add fleece jacket on colder days. Add blanket for colder evening. This has been my 2020-uniform. (Unless in sports clothes, pyjama or something I have sewed myself.) Very comfortable, very easy, very cheap.
In total I have spent €26 on clothes and €67 on shoes the entire year. All of it in the first half of the year. 

This has been a serious non-spend category this year, and most probably will not increase next year.

Food: The unexpected high-spending category of this year. Mostly because there has been no spend in any other category so everything has been bought in the food shops. The man and I have the bucket system to share costs (literally a bucket for receipts, added and divided when full, usually every two months.) This is not for personal spend, only costs for shared things but neither of us are entirely picky and he'll happily pay for my sweets and drink more than me of our wine.) It also includes what we eat out, coffee, beer, cleaning materials, household goods, renovation material etc. This has through out the year always been under 250€ per person per month.

Fixed costs: the top-spent category this year but so it should as it includes rent, energy, heating, insurances, internet, and all city taxes. The costs are calculated once a year and divided in two, who ever actually pays gets reimbursed at intermittent intervals. The cost for 2020 was lower than 2019 because of the new energy contract we signed in the beginning of this year. 2021 costs are not calculated yet, and although some costs actually announced to be lower, some others will probably go up. We will look for discounts but after that, pay and forget. This is the basic cost for living in Mokkum.

Gardening: There is no gardening post in our budget, but we decided early that this was a spend whatever for this year. This was instead of our vacation, travel and pleasures budgets. This year for our inner city 2x3 meter balcony, we bought soil, nutrients and seeds for some almost calculable money. Pots are usually provided by the trash gods. For next growing season, (weather it will be in 2021 or 2022), I have gathered seeds from all sorts of things we have grown or bought. I have also replanted anything that has sprouted from the different seeds buried by the Eurasian jay bird (Garrulus glandarius), commonly but incorrectly known as Vlaamse Gaai (nötskrika, nøtteskrikje, skovskade). So far hazel, oak and linden for my pretend forest). Much, much, much joy was brought by gardening this year.

 All other budget posts, have come in at zero or below half than expected for this year. Great savings this year. Next years budget is unchanged in the different posts. For 2021, I will however increase my total annual budget by fifteen percent or so (average rounded up). More about that tomorrow, when the new year begins.

The year ends in lock-down and self-isolation from people. Since 24 February 2020, I have been in the office four times and never a full day. I do not expect to go back ever, unless I need to hand in tools and access cards. 

I accept that. I have changed and the job has changed and we are no longer a match. 

After a unexpected, entirely undeserved but contractually regulated bonus payment received in December, I end 2020 with an Financial Independence number of 63,79. 

This means that my assets will last me almost 64 years until they run out, not including pension rights as they are outside of my control. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the cost increases will not exceed interests or dividends, and that forthcoming taxes will fit within the estimated annual budget. I have a life expectancy of maximum another 50 years, so I will adjust the annual budget for next year accordingly.

Annus horriblis is coming to an end today.
Annus mirabilis is hopefully coming in the next calendar year.
Stay safe, protect your eyes and laugh a little.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Fi62,05 Free

I’ve been running away from myself for twenty years, and it doesn’t work. What’s the good of making mistakes if you don’t use them?
                                                            Dorothy L Sayers, Gaudy night

The useful learnings from this months mistake are the following:

Buy a plunger (ontstopper, ventouse, vaskrensare).
The moment you have thought about it, you will need one immediately. Just get one, just do it. The need for the fix will be immediate and the regret will arrive shortly after that.

We should have bought one last week. Didn’t. Needed one last week, didn't have one. Instead did the trick with the hand (creating suction with the palm of the hand over the outlet in the grubby water). It worked. Buy one anyway. (At time of publishing, still have not bought one - due to the pandamnic.)

We are a bit bored but we are still making big plans for the future and with the future in sight, we are doing all chores at home that the house ever will need. We have for example cleaned all water locks on all sinks (2), toilets (1), shower drains (1) and washing machine outlets (1) in the house.
All are now cleaned.
Some are cleaned regularly, some has not been cleaned in (minimum) fourteen years.

Meditate, practice mindful attention to the present and get a good manager.

Haven't and haven't done that so the chest pain, arms without strength and the pricking of one’s thumbs, appeared again. It is now almost five years ago since the scary trip with the pling-plong taxi to the band-aid-house (aka trip to the cardiologist identifying tachycardia; I have lived with it since then.)
That incident, almost five years ago now, gave lessons. I immediately pressed pause at work and called in sick immediately and without regret. Huge support from company doctor, colleague and friend (although I am just another name on a long list of colleagues on sick leave). 

The medical situation is now managed. The job situation is of no real importance. 

Reduce your lifestyle before it gets reduced for you.

I could spend more time in the golden corporate cage but it would require a different manager.
I have a lot of attitude at work because of frugalism and I plan to leave when the sick leave is over.
(I write this with a huge smile.)

Some ten years ago, one of my high income friends (at the time earning at least double my own wage) asked for lemon in her tea while sitting in my sofa. Possibly expecting me to cut a slice from a biologically grown lemon for her cup, her comment when I handed her an envelope of lemon juice from a airline company was: “This is what you get from really rich people. Just as in my uncle’s house.”
And that is what it is like. 
Really rich people do not splurge. Only poor people indulge themselves.
Income irrelevant. 

Set targets that can be accomplished, dream big. Do not confuse the two. Repeat.

As with all ambitions and dreams the tactics is the same: Make a dream. Think big and specific. Break it down into pieces, break the pieces down in to smaller pieces, describe what you will do as specifically as possibly. All dreams disregard possibility or ability, just dream.
The forget about the whole thing and go on with your life.
When opportunities presents themselves, you will know what to do. 

If you want to become financially independent, tentatively set a date, and break down how much you need into pieces. Describe what you need to do to get there. (The lottery is not a way to get there.) Break down the tasks into smaller pieces and smaller dreams.
Do anything today for three minutes that will move you in the direction of that target.

Small things over ten years becomes a ridiculous amount

I have worked hard for thirty years. I have been saving hard for ten years. I will not live for more than another fifty at the most.
I made a career and lost my self.
I regained myself and lost my career.
I made some money and I have held on to it. 
I have gathered and saved.
The savings have passed several important thresholds: the lottery amount, the 'fuck-off money' amount, the 4% safe withdrawal rate amount, the Fat-FIRE amount and the oh crikey I have a lot of money amount. I am to old for ERE, but the assets are there.

My Financial Independence number is now over 60. This means that my financial assets will carry my annual costs for sixty years. The FI-number jump from last month is due to the first of the family drama inheritances having been paid out and to the surge of the financial markets where my assets are invested.
I have no debt, I own no property and I have not included any pension rights outside of my control. I live in my forever home. I have a life expectancy of about another forty years.

It is not about money, it is about time. Allan Roth 

The man I share my life with is also FI in his own right, working only when he likes the client.
We’ll be fine apart and together forever and ever - as long as we are healthy.

Actually, we are fully financially free and fork me backwards but I cannot believe it.
I know I repeat it every month but I still cannot believe it.
It is time to stop running and just walk through life at a slower pace.

We have set a date when I check out from work at the latest, and if need be before than that.

In the mean time... Cleaning pots and pans

I have rolled up my sleeves to do the scrubbing and cleaning of all stainless steel pans.

I have also deep-cleaned, sanded, scrubbed, oiled and resealed all cast iron pans: grandmother's frying pan, the fancy red Le Creuset pan, the round lidded Dutch oven given by the trash gods, the huge blue lidded turkey pan also given by the trash gods, and the Scandinavian plättjärn (traditional cast iron pan making six small Finnish, Swedish or Russian small pancakes, then called blini). 

They all went into the oven with a huge chunk of white fat. Although we eat vegetarian, I will only use the finest animal fat to seal my cast iron pans. 

I wish you all a happy solstice celebration; get (your version of) drunk and break all/some rules.
Then celebrate the return of the sun while recovering from the hangover.
Everything will get better from then on. 

Or not... You decide.

The old year is coming to an end and a new calendar year is awaiting.
Heavily medicated, but I am looking forward to it.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

FI49,37 forwards

Just as there is a need for a bigger boat in the film Jaws, we need of a bigger scale to describe how serious the pandemic situation is. The real numbers are double the highest level, so bad and serious are bad and serious, just more so.  We are lock-down even if it isn't officially declared, and we are sitting calmly on our bums (This is a real quote by the Dutch minister of health, "when the national pandemic authority tells you to sit still on your ass, you sit on your ass, met je kont op de bank zitten".) 

So while the world is raging in fury outside, we have closed the door and live in our bubble.

And oh we are in a bubble. I fear the day we will need to re-enter civilization again. Our language deteriorates into shared grunts, the sauce is happily licked off the plates after dinner and we have invented our own celebrations. With winter solstice as the main party we will this year celebrate twelve historical astronomers or physicists with one arriving with presents, one per day from 10 December (2020) onwards. The list is chronological from Ptolemy to Hawkins. Extra celebrations for Lucia and the Gregorian New Year. As I am a natural pagan and and he is scientifically trained, this is our new ritual.
Silly?
Ridiculous?
Oh, yes, wonderfully much so.

This is our safe house and we hold a month of basic supplies. We are not going anywhere and we are not going to evacuate. So we are eating up and using up the content of the camping equipment, the bug-out bag and all luxury articles. All travel kits are used up and the miniature bottles are kept for re-use. They will be refilled when we pack up to go somewhere next time.

Most important progress in the last month, is that we finally managed to do the annual renovation project. After 2017 Closet, 2018 Bedroom, 2019 Office, it was time for the more limited 2020 bathrooms.
We have painted the walls and the pipes of our toilet and our shower room. As in most Dutch apartments, these are separate rooms. Neither room needed much work beyond painting. The toilet needs a new vinyl flooring but as soon as we can find somebody to sell what we want, it is an easy job to put in.
We had everything we needed, including brushes and paint. No cost and actually very little work. Huge difference and a great sense of achievement. 

Inspired by the story in Graham Green's Travels with My Aunt, we have taken to travel with wanderlust from room to room in the apartment. We eat in different places with enjoyment. Instead of the normal dining room table, we for example made a French bistro in our kitchen for a romantic meal. We dined out in French for a week. Our kitchen really isn’t big enough for a table but since we now work at home, a bar table has been constructed in front of the window. It gave the man a much needed working space. Sure, it is in the way and makes opening the oven dangerous but it is only temporary. The French Bistro was so close to the stove that it was probably more a teppanyaki bar than a bistro. But since it is only temporary... It is temporary, isn’t it? It is! Surely!! Aaaaa...

We also have had a pick nick in the walk in closet; packing a basket, putting a blanket down, sitting on pillows. It was funny and uncomfortable. There was also an unexpectedly warm day so we had a summer lunch on the balcony, dressed in white and complete with lemonade and mixed salads. The beach lunch in the shower room, complete with candles and water dripping, was also funny as well as uncomfortable. Bathing costume required and no, it is not really big enough for two. But none of that really mattered, it creates changes and break habits so much appreciated. A little crazy goes a long way in creating fun.

Money is not a worry. With a financial independence number (FI) of 49,37 the last weeks has seen a drop. We all know why. I have decided to not even bother by the chaos in the world. Nothing I can do about it, nothing I want to do about it and survival is worth a lot. The financial independence number is calculated as the sum from adding all assets I have control over, and dividing with my annual budget (not costs, just the budget) and hoping that future dividends and interests will take care of cost increases. The FI-number dropped to 40 in March 2020, and has came up again. It can drop to 30 for all I care. If it lasts thirty years, the pension funds which are not included in the above number as they are outside of my control, will have been paying out for almost fifteen years. There will at least be something to live on even in worst case scenario. Even that, should be better than now.

So we have enough and will be focusing on health, love and independence from now on. 

This month I have been outside ten times, made candles from old left overs, sewn some more garments, harvested the last of the balcony garden, studied languages, and sorted through documents for next years tax declaration. Later on I will make home-made sushi for tonight which we will eat sitting on the living room floor dressed in kimonos (bathrobes actually, but nobody will be able to tell).
Have fun.