Yuppies in Toronto

Tdot

I love Toronto, my home town.

But it’s so bloody expensive there!

I read this recent article about the cost of living in Toronto for young professionals, and it’s scary how accurate it is. If Martin and I lived in Toronto (which was the original plan), we’d easily spend the quoted $2.6K per month to live in a condo, with no car, for a single person. Since we are frugal though, I think we could pay attention and get by on $3.5K for 2 people.

Martin and I don’t track our expenses, but we estimate that we spend about 1.7K EUR ($2.5K) per month living near Düsseldorf (one of the richest cities in Germany), and that includes living in a nice flat in a good area, driving a BMW, travelling often, and buying local/organic/free trade groceries. While we are more frugal than everyone else we know around us, we are still embarrassed to live such rich-yuppie lifestyles and are trying to cut back.

And cut back we will once we move to Niederrhein. Our expenses will drop to ~1.4K EUR ($2K) per month. Even that sounds high to me, but we probably do end up spending that much when we spread our travel costs over the year. (I’m not including my new freelancing costs, or Martin’s alternative treatments)

If I stayed in Toronto, I would still find this FIRE lifestyle, but it would take me longer to save enough to FIRE.

Now I get to FIRE earlier (hopefully!), while living a much more interesting life. Not that people in Toronto don’t live interesting lives, but after spending my entire life there, I was pretty bored with myself. I wanted to see something new.

Then I came here and felt really out of place and wanted to go back! But that’s another story.

I would still love to spend time in Toronto when I FIRE, just cuz it always feels like *home*. If my freelancing career takes off, I may not even have to wait until I FIRE!

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. 😕

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.

I’m 100% invested in stocks – almost

bull-bear

Due to me spending my free time outdoors these days, I haven’t had the chance to buy my VWRLs yet (Vanguard All World fund).

Although my CapTrader account is now set up, I just have to wait a few days for the compliance department to give me clearance to trade in the Netherlands where VWRL trades in euros. For some reason I was limited to Germany-only, but probably because I ticked some box while I was signing up.

I found this out because I gave CapTrader a call yesterday to ask for step-by-step help in executing my first trade. I felt a bit high maintenance in doing so, especially because when you open an account, you’re supposed to do 100 demo trades before they let you trade. I of course, confirmed that I did the demo trades via email (without actually doing them), then proceeded to ask for help on how to trade!

Yes, I have no shame. 😛

The customer service was really helpful and friendly though, so I’m glad I’ve chosen CapTrader. Plus they have really low fees: 0.1% transaction fee, with a minimum of 4 EUR and maximum of 29 EUR.

Since I have to wait a few days for my security clearance, I’ve gone ahead and wired over the rest of my euros to CapTrader. By the time I can buy over the Amsterdam exchange, I will have 30% of my networth waiting to buy VWRL!

This 30% also equals 100% of my money in Germany. Minus the few hundred I keep around handy to pay my half of the bills, which I don’t count in my networth.

The rest of my money (70% of my networth) sits in a high interest savings account in Canada. Once I open my Canadian trading account, I’ll buy VCE and VUN. (it’s in the works)

Then I will really be 100% invested in stocks. Wheee!!

Personality types and retiring early

personality-types

It takes a certain personality to not follow the pack – who are able to eschew consumerism while everyone around them equates spending money with comfort, entertainment, and status.

These Myers-Briggs personality types are INTJ’s, INTP’s, and ISTJ’s. Apparently they make up most of the early retirement community and are also the most likely to succeed at reaching financial independence at an early age.

I am none of these types. But interestingly enough, Mr. German is.

He’s an ISTJ!

Yet in the distant and recent past, he has resisted me so much when I introduce FIRE-friendly options. Such as shopping at discount supermarkets, buying used stuff, or investing.

The thing is, even though he resists my ideas at first, he eventually ends up getting even more into it than I ever was.

I tease him about it and tell him that soon he’ll be more into FIRE-ing than I will. It’s gonna happen any moment now, I can feel it. 😉

Surprisingly enough, my personality type is the least interested in money. I’m an INFJ, the idealistic do-gooder. I strive to do what’s right and live as closely as possible to my morals. Earning money is not my top priority.

But I think this makes me very suited to achieving early FI. Because my life goal requires time and freedom. I can’t save the world when I’m stuck at work going from one pointless meeting to the next. My personality type is the most likely to take on low paid jobs that help people/animals/society. That’s not the kind of job I have, but I will admit that I strive for this type of job. I just want to be financially independent first so that I don’t stress over living costs.

Also, since money is not important to me, I can invest and not flinch when the markets crash!

What is your personality type? Do you think it’s conducive to early retirement?

Caravanning in early retirement

campervan

When we retire, I envision us fixing up a camper van like the one above, and taking our sweet time caravanning around Europe.

The interior looks quite cozy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We could also consider shipping it over to Canada, and taking a cross-country road trip.

Canada

It’s been my dream for a while to drive across Canada. I’ve just never had the time to do it, and think early retirement would be the best time for it.

Life has so many possibilities when we’re financially independent and not chained to our jobs!

No thanks to careerism

cartoon-woman-and-ladder-187x300

Climbing the career ladder is within my reach. Because I have a ‘good attitude’, I attract a lot of people at work who want to help and groom me to be career-successful like they are. It’s incredible how many helpful people there are in the world. This is very nice, and I like making friends, but I don’t really want to move up in my career.

Even if I could earn more from career progression, I don’t think it helps my FIRE goals. Taking on more responsibilities at work would only mean stress for me, and that’s not my goal. I would rather have 7 relatively easy working years, rather than 5 stressful years.

Working is largely meaningless to me. I pretend to care about it (at work), but really I don’t care much about it. Asides from working being a means to an end.

I want to live my life!

It pains me to sit in my office attached to my computer, while the world is out-there waiting for me.

The corporate environment is not really for me. Imagine a hippie working in an office – that’s me! Except I look like a yuppie (think fitted pant suits), which is a look I’m comfortable with. But still, I would prefer to be at the beach surfing, hiking mountains, and volunteering at organic farms and animal sanctuaries. Also hanging out with my Mom!

We are so liquid, we can evaporate!

water-drop

Mr. German and I are on the same page when it comes to being frugal, living simply, saving a large portion of our incomes (about 65%), and bringing in extra money through side hustles.

Living below our means comes so naturally to us that we don’t even notice it. Which is why Mr. German doesn’t really get why we need to do any more.

Aren’t we doing enough?!

It depends on who you ask. :mrgreen:

From my perspective, there is so much more we can do. I want us to be Financially Independent and Retire Early (FIRE) in 7 years, while Mr. German thinks this is all a little nuts.

Not there yet

Suffice it to say, we are so close, but aren’t exactly aligned when it comes to FIRE-ing.

That’s why I started this blog!

We have a lot of potential, but potential means nil unless we use it!

True that we are progressing on auto pilot, but with a little bit of extra effort, we can accelerate our progress by a lot.

Specifically, we need to invest to generate passive income. We need to start making our money work for us!

There is no way we can stop working in 7 years if we keep all our money in cash.

Our FIRE approaches

When pressed, Mr. German’s approach is to not change too much of what we’re already doing. Except, to buy a primary residence that will lower our expenses. Then we can accelerate our savings rate even more.

My approach is to slowly grow our net worth by investing in dividend stocks. I want us to have passive income that will in the future, completely cover our expenses so we do not have to draw down our principal. I do not need to buy real estate, as I don’t think it’s a good investment. But(!), I am also willing to buy property that fulfills Mr. German’s criteria. I just don’t want us to keep everything liquid in the event that we find something, when the market moves so slowly here. Years can go by before we find anything we like, and I don’t think it’s a compelling enough reason to NOT invest in stocks.

Opposites attract!

I think we have a bit of a dissonance here because Mr. German doesn’t want to stop working. He likes his job, and assumes he will work until age 67. The idea of changing his routine is down right scary, so he doesn’t want to even think about it, let alone plan for it. Also, Mr. German has never invested in the stock market before, so is understandably apprehensive about it.

Me, I’m counting down the days until I can retire! My life goals do not revolve around working until I’m in my 60’s. That concept is downright scary for me.

The journey continues…

Despite our ups and downs, I think we make an excellent team. Mr. German has strong income earning potential and his career is going well. He focusses on providing and giving our lives real stability. Our day-to-day lives move so smoothly because of him. I appreciate that so much.

My career is also going well, but my company is less stable and quicker to make cuts. Also my personality skews towards NOT working ^_^.  I do conceptualize and lead my our FIRE goals, while challenging Mr. German to think more like a rich person (vs. a middle class person).

Without each other, I think we could both reach financial independence, but it would take longer and wouldn’t be as much fun.

One of the reasons I want to FIRE so badly is so I can spend more time with Mr. German while we are still young. I would much rather hang out with him all day than do anything else. 🙂