Renting is great!

A few steps from our new home.

A few steps from our new home.

We found our soon-to-be¬†new place in Niederrhein. ūüôā

Our move-in date¬†is in mid-November, and we¬†can’t wait!!

I said we were considering buying a house or a flat, but we didn’t find anything compelling enough. Plus I ran the numbers and also¬†started investing again, which makes me want to not spend too much on anything.

Our new place is smaller and¬†cheaper than what we have now, which we didn’t plan on,¬†it just worked out that way. More importantly, the new place is in line with our FIRE and health goals.

Martin will be able to bike to work in 30 min, or take the train 8 minutes. I will either work from home, or will rent a coworking space 15 min away (walking). Long commuting will soon be a thing of the past. Excitedddd!!!

We’re dropping off our signed contracts this weekend, and are thrilled the hunt is over. :mrgreen:

Working and living in the same city together is a dream come true. We had been hoping for it for years, without wanting to change anything.¬†Now that we’re¬†putting in the effort to make it happen, we see that it was only hard¬†because we made it hard.

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Back to investing

red_envelopes

Back in June,¬†I stopped buying Vanguard’s All World Funds (VWRL) and haven’t invested in anything since.

Now I’m back to it and have signed up for an automatic savings-investing plan with comdirect. I think it’s called Wertpapierplan, and my first transaction will be¬†September 1st!

comdirect’s Depotkonto platform is complicated (for me) to use, but¬†has some neat features. You can create a schedule to buy¬†ETFs¬†at certain set times during the month, and they¬†waive transaction fees!¬†There’s a list of 75 ETFs¬†that you can buy through Wertpapierplan.

I’ve chosen these 4 ETFs to replace my beloved VWRLs:

  • COMSTAGE S&P 500 UCITS ETF – TER 0.12%
  • ISHARES CORE MSCI WORLD UCITS ETF – TER 0.20%
  • COMSTAGE DAX TR UCITS ETF – TER 0.08%
  • COMSTAGE STOXX¬†EUROPE 600 NR UCITS ETF – TER 0.20%

Thanks to Richard from Banks Germany who set me on this path!

I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I should continue to invest 100% of my income,¬†or if I should keep some money liquid in case we need it for Martin’s alternative cancer therapies.

But I’ve decided to proceed with our investing and FIRE plans. It makes me feel good, and anyway we keep way too much of our networth in cash. We have a lot of problems, but¬†money¬†is not one of them.

So, here’s towards the future!

How to negotiate $100+ per hour

balance

I’ve already quit my job, announced that I will freelance, and now what’s left is for me to negotiate my new hourly rate of $100+.

Truth be told, I am nervous!

Here’s why:

As an employee, I earn ‚ā¨21 per hour ($31 CAD, $24 USD, $33 AUD) not including bonuses. This is more than double the German minimum¬†wage¬†of¬†‚ā¨8.50 per hour. My salary is¬†average¬†in Germany, and comes to¬†about ‚ā¨45K per year.

Though it’s nothing fancy, I’m very grateful to be earning this amount.

As a freelancer, I was planning to negotiate ‚ā¨65 per hour. That’s 3x what I earn now, which to me, is pretty wow!

But my colleagues who have been in the business longer than me, think that‚Äôs ridiculous and say I should definitely ask for at least ‚ā¨90 per hour.

‚ā¨90 per hour is¬†$136 CAD or $103 USD or $143 AUD per hour!

That’s a¬†ridiculous amount of money to me. I‚Äôve never earned that much, and never thought I would. It’s almost laughable, which I know is a mindset I need to change if I want to earn that much.

But do I want to earn that much?

No really, I have to ask myself that. Because if I don’t want to, I won’t. But if I do want to, then there’s a chance I could if I ready myself to push for it.

Self doubt running through my mind

I’m an INFJ, which apparently is one of the worst personality types for marketing myself and negotiating wages.

What also makes me nervous is that other more senior colleagues who go freelance only make the ‚Äúmaximum‚ÄĚ of ‚ā¨65 per hour. This magic number of ‚ā¨65 is the maximum amount that our company will pay for the type of work I do. But as one of my teammates¬†posits: who says that and why do I believe it?

She says my work is essential to the company, and that I need to gain more confidence in fighting for myself. She reminds me that I asked for a measely 10% raise and still didn’t get it, so now it’s time to start high and then work my way down if need be. Not the other way around.

I agree, it’s just hard to do. But I also feel like I need to do it, because as a woman in the field, we are often short changed. My industry is male dominated, but the little niche I work in is female dominated and hence, commands a lower pay with less respect and almost no room for advancements. It is also a professional field where a lot of experience and education is required, so many people think the company asks for a lot but gives very little.

I’m still psyching myself up for it though, and am not certain what I will do. But I have a few months to make a proposition in person while I’m still working here, and will of course continue to prepare, ponder, and pontificate until I leave in early October.

What’s scary for me in writing this entry is I’m essentially and publicly making it a goal, when really I just want to take the easy way out and negotiate a low rate of ‚ā¨50. Which is not really a negotiation.

House hunting in Niederrhein

Niederrhein

Martin and I are looking for an apartment/house to move into in the Niederrhein area.

We live in Nordrhine-Westfalen (NRW), which is the north-west state¬†on the border of Netherlands and Belgium. Martin works deep in the Niederrhein, which is more north, and I¬†work in the Rhineland area which is south (in the Cologne and D√ľsseldorf region).

Everyday we commute 35-40km in opposite directions, but soon that will be a thing of the past as we commit to changing our lifestyles for the better.

Normally, I have to stay working¬†in the Rhineland area of NRW because that’s where all the international jobs are. But,¬†since I will be freelancing soon, I’ll be able to work from home!!

We’re so excited to move and to get rid of our commutes. We just have to find a place to live now, which is a big pain in the @ss.

Ideally we would like to be within walking or biking distance from Martin’s workplace.¬†In immobilienscout, we type in his work address and search within a¬†5km¬†range.

At first we were only considering renting, but since it’s hard to find something suitable, we are also thinking of buying a flat. Then over the weekend, we visited my friend in the Netherlands and fell in love with her house and house-living. So now we are also opening our search up to buying a house! (renting a house is pretty expensive and difficult to find in the area we want, we’ve found)

Typically we have been very confused folk about [a lot of things!] but especially when it comes to where to live and what to live in; from dauercamping to renovating an Altbau. We are all over the map, the reason being that we are so so so different personality-wise and background wise. I hail from Toronto, and Martin is from the most rural area of east Germany where you can see wild pigs running through the fields (true story!). So what we tend to look for/how we feel comfortable in a place differs by a lot.

Since moving to Germany though, I’ve shed my big city¬†identity and now have¬†a much stronger¬†appreciation for nature and¬†small town (maybe even rural!) living. It’s pretty nice not being directly in a big city. Less rush, less spending, closer to nature, and more space. We want peace and simplicity. What a big city has to offer is¬†less¬†important to¬†me now.

The more time I spend in Niederrhein, the more I like it. It’s really fantastic for biking, with flat lands and¬†extensive bike trails.¬†We¬†love biking,¬†so this area matches how we want our new¬†lifestyles to be.

We’re planning to move in mid-November,¬†and¬†hopefully I’ll¬†have some good pics to post¬†about our house hunt soon.

Something fun to note:¬†a big difference between house hunting in Toronto and Niederrhein (maybe Germany in general) is that it seems to be a plus in Germany that a space was renovated in the 80’s or 90’s. Like¬†look! you don’t need to do anything¬†since it was renovated a mere¬†20-30 years ago! Whereas¬†in Toronto and the GTA, this would be something that the potential buyer should overlook, because clearly it’s a gut job. :mrgreen:

Measuring cancer healing progress + costs

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Mr. G is doing so well healing his body of Stage I cancer!

Okay so we haven’t measured any progress yet, but if his oncologist won’t help him with the monitoring, then we’ll have to do it ourselves.

Oftentimes when you break away from conventional treatments, doctors shut you out. I don’t know if that’s the case with Mr. G’s doctors, but we haven’t communicated with them since Mr. G cancelled his surgery. It’s quite stressful to get turned down for help during a time you need it, so we haven’t asked them yet to shield ourselves from the stress/disappointment. There’s enough stress going on here, and we don’t need a doctor’s rejection bringing us down.

We’ll see whether we feel strong enough to confront them (that’s what it feels like) and if not, we’ll just do it ourselves.

How will we monitor Mr. G’s cancer healing progress?

We’ll have to prepare samples ourselves and send them directly to the lab. Blood samples are difficult, but urine samples are easy. The Navarro Medical Clinic has been recommended by Cancer Tutor as an economical way to monitor progress. The test will tell you ‘how much cancer’ you have in your body, by measuring¬†HCG levels. As long as you compare the same tests results¬†with each other (urine HCG test with the next urine HCG test), it will be comparable.

Cost of the test is $55 USD a pop not including shipping to Philippines where the lab is located. We also need to find 100% acetone to prepare the urine samples, and I’m not sure where to find it. We’ve been busy but need to start figuring it out soon. If¬†Mr. G’s¬†doctor is¬†willing to¬†help with¬†monitoring, it will be covered under¬†insurance.

The cost of alternative therapy

We¬†are spending a lot of money. But surprisingly, not as much as we expected. I don’t know how much Mr. G expected to spend, but I have been budgeting for 30K EUR. So far, we’ve spent not more than 600 EUR, not including increased cost of food (since we eat mostly organic now).

The 600 EUR was for the naturopath visits and the natural medicines we bought. Mr. G is now on a therapeutic regime that has a morning and evening ritual. It’s stuff¬†he can do¬†himself (pills, creams,¬†etc…).

But when he starts his IV treatments, that will cost some money. One naturopath quoted us 6K EUR, but the new one we found didn’t tell us how much (and we forgot to ask), because his practice is far from us and he wants us to find a place closer to us since it will be an everyday treatment thing.

We want to find a clinic and practitioner we like and trust. We want to feel comfortable, and will pay more for it if we must.

The real work is in massive lifestyle changes

The best naturopath and therapeutic treatment plan won’t work (or work as well) if you don’t massively change your lifestyle.¬†We thought our¬†lifestyle was great already, but actually it¬†has tipped Mr. G over the edge of¬†having cancer in the first place. Which is a clear sign that something has got to change.

This is what we are changing:

  • diet/nutrition – switch to raw vegan
  • increase physical activity – daily
  • stress reduction – no more commute, positive thinking, meditation,¬†forgiving the past, yoga soon!

Even though we were eating a vegan diet before, there was much to be improved. We ate a high fat, high protein vegan diet, with probably too many processed foods. Now we have switched to a mostly raw vegan diet (high carb, low fat, low protein diet) with no processed food except oats. And we feel great!

Some of our friends and family have doubted our natural/alternative approach. Mr. G was already vegan before his second diagnosis, so what makes us think another vegan diet will suddenly cure him?

Why don’t we do vegan diet PLUS conventional treatments?

Good question! Although vegans are not immune to cancer (obviously), diet and nutrition are¬†linked¬†to diseases in¬†mainstream clinical and epidemiological research.¬†Short synopsis is:¬†animal proteins (meat, dairy, eggs) are carcinogenic in humans,¬†while whole food, plant based diets are healing.¬†It’s just that these studies never get publicity and pharma trials (paid for by pharma or by the money you donate to cancer research FOR pharma), take front-stage-centre even though they have low survival rates and a ton of side effects. The nutrition studies are largely¬†ignored. Which is a gigantic travesty, because more people are getting killed by cancer treatments than cancer itself.

Or like Mr. G, he was never ‘cured’ from his cancer after undergoing surgery and chemotherapy the first time around. He is now dealing with chemo side effects, liver damage, and secondary cancer. And he is not alone.¬†These results are considered ‘normal’. Which makes me so angry.

If he was given a choice based on a mainstream research, then a raw vegan diet + stress reduction lifestyle should have been part of the treatment options communicated. Not only surgery/chemo/radiation. Cuz guess which option we would have chosen if we had known? The gentle, curative approach (not covered under insurance), or the unnecessary, harsh, invasive, non-cures that f*#$ up your body (but that are covered under insurance). Grrr!!

Mr. G¬†had switched to a vegan diet at a time when he still had cancer.¬†While I do believe his vegan diet was enough to prevent cancer, it wasn’t enough to¬†heal¬†him from the cancer. Which is why¬†we are “sending in the army” (as I call it!) by going mostly¬†raw with a strong focus on the cancer fighting foods. A raw vegan diet is a very powerful detox diet, which is exactly what your body needs if you have cancer.

A¬†lot¬†of people are¬†finding my blog when I tag it with ‘cancer’, so I’m thinking of starting a separate cancer blog¬†so my cancer entries don’t get mixed up with “I want to FIRE!” type entries.¬†It’s also easier to¬†blog when there is a distinct theme, and I don’t know if I want this blog’s theme to be expat living + FIREing + cancer healing. All over the place!

Taking a chance on freelancing

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This week I turned down all the counter offers my company gave to convince me to un-quit my job.

I also¬†shared my future plans, which –¬†surprise surprise –¬†is¬†freelancing! :mrgreen:

What a relief!

The counter offers had been hanging over me. Not because I actually wanted them, but because I know they were given to me¬†to try to help me out.¬†I felt personal pressure to accept the counters, because I really like the people¬†I work with. Basically, receiving counter offers felt like quitting all over again – which wasn’t easy for me the first time around.

Since making my announcements, I’ve only received positive feedback about¬†me freelancing!

I already have verbal confirmations from 2 groups that they want to work with me as a freelancer, and I will likely get more from another group plus another freelancer who I have yet to approach.

My boss also urges me to contact her any time if I want my old job back. ūüôā

While it has been stressful to make all these changes all of a sudden, I have high hopes about everything.

Next up is finding a flat to move to near Mr. G’s office!

Freelancing – is it for me?

decision

Career has been on my mind a lot lately since I’ve just quit my job and am scrambling to¬†figure things out.

My company has¬†given me¬†counter offers¬†with more flexibility (home office, reduced hours, leave of absence, etc…), but¬†no mention¬†of money.¬†And I’d like a raise too!¬†To be fair, I didn’t talk about money when I was explaining why I quit – my thoughts were all about flexibility and that’s exactly what they’re countering me with. But I thought it was obvious that money is also an issue¬†since I asked for a raise a couple of months ago. ūüėē

It’s¬†in my interest to consider freelancing as¬†it¬†will grant me¬†ultimate flexibility.¬†I can set my own hours, say yes or no to jobs, and work from wherever. The money will probably be 2-3x my current hourly rate, depending on how I negotiate it.

So there’s no real benefit to me staying, even if they meet all my flexibility demands.

I’m a bit nervous to broach the freelancing subject with my bosses though. But I have a 3-month notice period, so have some time to get comfortable with it. Here are some things I am considering:

What’s in my favour to¬†freelance

1. Specialized field –¬†I work in the STEM field, and¬†it’s hard to find suitable candidates for my role. We’ve been¬†looking for someone for our team, and it’s been¬†painful. Not even headhunters are finding us the right people. The job requires a related¬†PhD, strong technical knowledge, good business and communication skills.¬†(*I* don’t even fit the criteria…!)

2. Doing good¬†work with different departments¬†– I started in my company with¬†Group A on a 1 year contract. I was doing so well¬†that they reduced my probation period and gave me a permanent contract after¬†a few months.¬†I worked in¬†Group A for 6 months,¬†when they were forced to give me up to Group B.¬†Group B is a powerful new group that was able to pick and choose people they wanted to work with. They chose me! So I’ve been¬†with Group B for the last 7 months, and have been¬†liking it a lot. Having worked in Group A before coming to Group B gives me great exposure to both groups. This means 2 strong¬†areas I can tap¬†for potential¬†freelancing projects.

3. Accounting in favour of freelancers – Group A never replaced me, and are swimming in too much work. They¬†can’t hire a¬†my replacement either, but there’s room¬†to hire¬†freelancers. Freelancers cost a lot more than employees, but freelancers look better on the balance sheet¬†since they don’t increase headcount and¬†are reported in a¬†different bucket. (Gotta please the shareholders!) I’ve kept in great contact with Group A the entire time, and though I haven’t spoken with my old boss yet, another colleague assures me it is very likely I can freelance with Group A. It is uncertain to me whether my current Group B will need/want me on a freelance basis. I’d prefer to do Group B work because it’s more fun, but hey, money is money and I’m also happy to take on Group A work if they’ll have me. :mrgreen:

4. Hardship factor – Okay, I know it’s icky to use Mr. G having cancer to generate sympathy. That’s not what I want to do. But I’m also aware that it’s a consideration factor and politically, it¬†makes it easier for me to manoeuvre my upcoming freelancing career when I have a hardship reason. Which, turns out, I do! Because this whole cancer thing – it’s hard. No joke. I’m pretty adamant about not talking about cancer too much, because it makes me feel uncomfortable. When people look at me with those sad eyes, gahhh, it really gets me.¬†We can¬†live¬†on Mr. G’s income, but¬†I prefer to have¬†my own income in case something happens to Mr. G¬†or his job. Plus, it’s faster to FIRE!

5. I’m a ‘people person’ – Although I’m an introvert and need a lot of alone time, I really like people and people tend to like me back. It’s not hard for me to connect with others, and I don’t have a shortage of friends or allies at work. The company I work for is a very friendly place, and¬†we’re encouraged to mingle and network with each other. A big part of the job is knowing who to contact to get stuff done. I’m pretty good at that.

What’s NOT in my favour to¬†freelance

1. New girl – I’ve only been at my company for ONE year, and I’ll need my company to be my biggest client. I’m still considered new and also quite junior.

2. Lack of education – I don’t have the PhD that most people in my role require. I do have a mildly related MSc, but there’s a big gap between a Master’s and a PhD.

3. Lack of knowledge – It’s true, I’m not as technically/scientifically strong as my PhD colleagues who really know their sh!#*$. I wouldn’t consider my job very easy for me, but I do enjoy it and try my best.

4. Personality type I’m an INFJ, which is not a hardcore business type.¬†I’m more the type to want to give everything away for free if it can help people. And if it can’t help people, then why bother doing it? I’m also¬†not that great at negotiating, and¬†I would be relying solely on my company as my big client. I don’t have the energy (nor¬†skills, probably) to find other clients.

5. One client only – My blueberries¬†will all be¬†in one basket! In Germany,¬†freelancers cannot earn 100% from one client. The Finanzamt doesn’t want you to¬†freelance as an administrative step. My workaround¬†this would be to grab work¬†from another freelancer, and bill¬†through her company. Since I haven’t even spoken to this freelancer yet, I’m not sure¬†this is possible. So I’ll have to contact her¬†to see what she says.

Health insurance issues

Everyone needs to be health¬†insured in Germany, and insurance is pretty expensive.¬†I spoke with an independent insurance broker and¬†I have to stay on public insurance¬†if I go¬†freelance.¬†That means I’ll have to pay 14.9% of my gross income to insurance, with a minimum of ~400 EUR per month.¬†During the slow months¬†at the beginning, I’ll be¬†running at a loss. That’s okay to me, but I do prefer to make money!

My long term career goals

I’ve always wanted to be location independent. I don’t like being stuck in one place. I want to be able to travel, spend time with far away loved ones,¬†and to¬†work while at it. Plus, I’d like to¬†try running my own business to see if I’ll like it.

I’d also¬†like to retire early! If I wait a few years until I go freelance (my original plan), I’m wasting all these prime income generating years. Assuming freelancing earns me more than working as an employee (I think it does). Of course, freelancing is dependent on clients. But I think I’ve stumbled on a really needy client who has no shortage of busy work. If¬†projects ever dry up, hopefully I’ll be retired by then. If not, I can probably get my old job back!

Basically, I really need to give freelancing a try. As much as this is a stressful time of change¬†for Mr. G and I, it’s¬†equally a¬†period of growth and¬†opportunity. It’s all about how we choose to define this moment. I’m choosing to leverage it to forge a life we truly want.