Entering my mid-30’s and still not pregnant

fertility

This week I turned 34!!

Despite the odd title, I’m really thrilled to be in my mid-30’s. But as a woman in my mid-30’s who is trying to get pregnant, fertility is something that I do think about.

Our baby-making journey has been quite rocky, but this is also a neat time. I feel the gravity of it all. Whether we can conceive or not, I think I will always remember this period in our lives fondly.

We started trying last October, after I passed my probation period at work. Like literally right away, on the day my permanent work contract took hold! I know, we are romantic. But seriously, the timing just worked out well. ūüėČ

Us trying was against the advice of Martin’s doctor, who advised us to wait at least another year because Martin was still recovering from chemo. But we had waited 1-year already, and decided that was good enough. Different doctors give different advice, and after reading some studies on our own, waiting 1 year was fine for us risk-wise.

I naively assumed that once we began trying, that I would get pregnant right away. I guess it’s because everything I’ve ever put my effort into, I’ve gotten results. I’m finding it’s not always like that with baby-making though.

We had 2 false alarms during our the last 12 months, which were emotionally trying and stressful. But overall, also fine.

Martin was also recently re-diagnosed with cancer, which had us immediately switch our focus to changing our lifestyle to support a natural cancer healing path.

Now we are in the throes of me switching to a freelancing career (in hopes of supporting both of us financially in the future), and moving to a different city. In between all of this, we have 5 family members visiting from Canada and Asia. It’s going to be a whirlwind of travel for the next 4 weeks, which is bad timing but was planned and paid for earlier this year, and just happens to land now.

I can see that our lives are just too packed, and we need to wind down from the stress of everything that’s going on right now. We need some downtime to relax our minds and bodies first.

We’re also in contact with a fertility clinic and had said that if we tried naturally for a year and didn’t get pregnant, that we’d consider doing IVF or some other type of fertility treatment.

But now that we’re healing cancer naturally, it only seems logical to also try a more natural approach with fertility. I’ve done minor research on it, and no surprise to me, it’s very similar to natural cancer healing. Meaning taking a holistic approach by eating healthy, exercising, and reducing stress. This is to give your body the necessary tools so that it can heal itself, which is what he body is built to do.

I foresee us continuing doing what we’re doing, but getting better at reducing the stress which is our biggest problem now. If we get pregnant, that would be fantastic! If not, that’s also fine. I’m still on the fence about whether I want to have kids or not, but Martin wants kids and I’m up for trying! It’s not that I don’t want kids, it’s just that I’m confused about it. It’s complicated.

This is how I’m living my mid-30’s, and I’m pretty happy about it. ūüėÄ

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2 years and the gift of cotton

futon

Today is our 2nd anniversary!!

We like to follow the anniversary gift themes, where¬†year 1 is paper, year 2 is cotton, etc…

We won’t stick too closely to these themes, because we also don’t exchange gifts for any occassion.¬†Not because we’re trying to be frugal, but because we just don’t care about gifts and like to keep things simple (no stressing about ‘the perfect gift’ here).

Last year Martin did give me a very nice paper gift. He made me a calendar with¬†our couple-selfies¬†from the same month in the previous year.¬† ūüôā

This year, gifting cotton¬†was appropriate because¬†our goal is to live a healthy life.¬†We are¬†slowly detoxifying our home, alongside detoxifying our diets. One of the things we wanted to switch out was our foam mattress with a non-toxic¬†cotton futon. We spend a lot of time on our bed (ha!) and don’t want to breathe in¬†the¬†harsh chemicals¬†that get sprayed onto mattresses. Perfect timing for a second year¬†cotton gift, ja?

We actually bought the futon weeks ago, and have been sleeping soundly on it since. It’s a lot harder than our foam mattress, but I prefer it. Martin is still getting used to it but says it’s fine. ūüôā

Even though cotton futons don’t cost much (starting at 200 EUR for a double), we ended up thrifting it even further by buying it used! I know that sounds gross, but the seller said the mattress was the guest mattress and¬†hardly used.¬†Okay so everyone¬†who sells their mattress says this,¬†but we decided it couldn’t hurt to investigate since ordering a new futon would take 6+ weeks to receive, and we wanted the mattress right away. When we got to the seller’s house, it really was the guest futon! The mattress was pristine, no dents or stains, and also didn’t smell. I actually leaned down to smell it! So for 65 EUR, we hauled it away and have a story to tell. :mrgreen:

It’s been a hard year for us, but marriage is suiting us well. We are used to referring to each other as husband and wife now, which took some adjusting to. We’ve been together for almost 8 years, but only married for 2. So the boyfriend/girlfriend titles were more automatic at first.

Most new people who meet me at work don’t know I’m married, because I don’t wear a ring and rarely talk about ‘my husband’. At first I was nervous to mention a partner at all, because I’m hyper aware that everyone assumes newlyweds are trying to conceive (which we are, sort of – more of this later!), and I didn’t think it was good for my career.

But I noticed that Germans don’t have this hang up with whether women will have a baby or not, and that it’s okay to have a partner. I even had a senior director drop by my office¬†to convince me to get pregnant! He would say “f#$*% [company name]” – and go on a tirade about¬†how I should do what I want,¬†and that having a family is important. I seriously felt like I was in the twilight zone, but quickly fell in-trust with him and shared that we were trying. This is the same¬†man who¬†mentored¬†me¬†on negotiating my freelancing contracts. Sounds¬†creepy, but he’s a¬†swell guy!

Marrying Martin was also me agreeing to live in Germany. So one big positive to add to my Germany-list is that as a woman of child-bearing age, speaking about wanting to have kids is not taboo in a corporate setting. Or at least not having to go out of my way to avoid the topic like the plague.

Anyway, happy anniversary dear!! ‚̧

How cancer affects our finances

lifebasket

I used to think that the *theme* of my 30’s was to retire early. That I would be strong, and smart, and work a decade to make that all happen. But now I know that early retirement is only a sub-theme. The real theme to my 30’s is to live a healthful, anti-cancer life. Which includes early retirement.

Neither Mr. German or I had any first or second hand experience with cancer. It was always that awful disease that happened to someone else, far removed from us. While our hearts went out to people, it didn‚Äôt hit us until it hit us. In my case, it happened to hit my rock ‚Äď the love of my life; my best friend.

2 years ago, Mr. German was diagnosed with a cancer that had spread. He had emergency surgery and chemotherapy. Everything was fine afterward. He recovered and we made some big changes to our lives.

  • We got married
  • We moved in together
  • Mr. German turned vegan

Since this is a personal finance blog, I want to give a snapshot of how cancer has affected our finances.

At the time, we were living 70km apart and only seeing each other on weekends. We had our own apartments and expenses. When Mr. German went on sick leave, he started getting ~60% of his income paid through his insurance, which thankfully covered all of his expenses.

My income dropped 80%. I practically stopped working so that I could take care of Mr. German. Luckily, I worked for a small company that was very understanding, and they gave me the flexibility I needed. Working on 20% of my income was not enough to cover my expenses, so I happily dug into my savings. (yay to having savings!)

Now, fast forward 2 years. I changed jobs to be closer to Mr. German, and we moved in together 6 months after getting married. Our expenses more than halved, because it’s so much cheaper to live together than to live apart. My income also rose (due to the job change), and Mr. German’s income fell (strict doctor’s orders to not travel for work = no travel stipends). We fell into a nice groove of saving 65% of our take home pays.

In total, insurance covered all of¬†Mr. German’s¬†treatments, but we¬†were not able to save¬†money¬†during that period (about a year). That’s more than¬†great for us.¬†Money was the last thing we were thinking about anyway.

We‚Äôre not done yet. Mr. German has been going for regular monitoring and in his last ultrasound, it was discovered that he has another tumour that has blood vessels going to it. It’s an early discovery, and the prognosis is good.

This time, Mr. German wants to do things differently. While it’s still early stages, he has made the decision to forgo surgery and other conventional treatments for now.

Insurance will cover all conventional treatments, but will only cover up to 500 EUR of alternative treatments per year (depending on what it is). We’re still investigating what’s out there, so don’t know what the costs will be. But we do know they will be out-of-pocket.

Last time we didn’t make any changes to¬†Mr. German’s¬†diet, because¬†his oncologist’s¬†advice¬†was to¬†eat the same way. But with all this¬†hard evidence linking cancer to diet,¬†Mr. German¬†switched to a¬†vegan diet¬†about a year ago,¬†and is¬†now on an organic, raw vegan diet with an emphasis on the strongest cancer fighting foods.

Previously we ate only the easy-to-find organic produce from the regular supermarket. They only stock organic potatoes, apples, bananas, and carrots Рwhich is a good start but not enough for us. Now everything has to be organic, and we’re going out of our way to find it (organic supermarkets, organic farms). While we haven’t totalled it up yet, it looks like our grocery bill will exceed our rent!

If you’ve read this far, thank you! In the next while I will¬†be MIA. I devote my time to¬†helping Mr. German and researching cancer. We’re also looking for¬†a good Heilpraktiker/in or Artzt/in that specializes in alternative cancer therapies. We live in the Ddorf region. If you happen to know someone, please contact me.

Much love, Jessica

Saying goodbye to academia – and my piano

uni

Though I’ve been working in ‘the industry’ in Germany for the past 3 years, I’m only a year and a half out of grad school.

And despite me being pretty awful at school, I graduated at the top of my class.

This alone has kept me with one baby toe in academia.

I still [get asked to] submit papers to journals and conferences. Which I dread.

Now my most recent paper submission needs revising. While it was a lot of work to even submit, I don’t want to continue. I’m making the difficult decision to cut my time losses now by not re-submitting, and forgoing any academic-y opportunities I may come across in the future.

In general, I like the academic atmosphere but I also know it’s not for me. I’m not going to make any waves, or breakthroughs, or even any minor contributions to academia – so why bother.

Since I want to simplify and focus on what’s important, I have to prioritize.

Recently I even sold my beloved piano. It sat collecting dust, making me feel guilty. I could have made myself play more, but I realized that at this point of my life, I want my hobbies to be physical activity, not more sitting around (blogging is okay because it helps me stay on track!).

The proceeds of my piano will go to my next batch of VWRLs!

And my time spent working on academic projects will in the future, be used for physical activity.

I’m converting what held me back from my goals, to vehicles that will now support my goals. This makes me feel more focussed and healthy.

An ode to my job

thankful

Sometimes I can get pretty down on my job.

Especially when things get stressful. I resent that I have to put up with it all, and early retirement can’t come soon enough.

But that’s the wrong attitude. It also makes it difficult for me to endure.

I am VERY grateful to even have a job, let alone a good job. It’s not so easy to find work as an immigrant, especially for one who doesn’t speak the dominant language (well).

My job actually requires a PhD in the field, which I don’t have. Instead I have a mildly (as in 1%) related Master’s degree. A Master’s is considered the minimum level of education in Germany, like how North Americans view Bachelor’s degrees.

The step from a Master’s to a PhD is huge, and Germans love credentialed papers. So having a Master’s is not overly impressive when I’m applying to a job requiring a PhD.

But I got it! I was lucky, because I’m GREAT at interviews. I made everyone love me. No joke, that’s exactly what happened. No one cared about my [lack of] skills, they just thought I was a super person and they were right! :mrgreen:

This also means that I fit in with the corporate culture at my company, which makes it a pleasant environment for me. I’ve worked in companies where I didn’t feel I fit in, and that was much harder.

My job also gives me the chance to connect with people and make friends. It can get lonely as an expat when your whole life revolves around 1 person (your partner), because you lack a network and don’t speak the main language.

Having a job really lets me forge a life that is independent from my husband, and that’s healthy for me and our relationship.

I feel very productive at my job too. This feeling of productivity is essential for me to feel happy, not just at work, but in life. I don’t like to feel stagnant.

There are also functional perks to having my job, asides from getting paid. Like having a company iPhone + a sleek new laptop (also allowed for personal use), free German lessons, running marathons, receiving monthly investment contributions, and travel. Even though work-travel is not very fun, but I put it in anyway because sometimes it’s fun and I appreciate getting out of Germany once in a while, and not on my dime.

Of course, I’m also grateful to have a stable income so that I can plan for an early retirement. This is a HUGE privilege in itself, and the gravity is not lost on me.

Anyone interested in writing an ode to their jobs? I’m curious to read it. I can guess at what sucks about your job, but what’s great about it? What do you appreciate about your job? Other than a paycheque, how does your job help you reach your goals? Is this the best/worst job you’ve ever had? Please leave me a comment if you blog about it. Inquiring minds want to know!

Marathon training

Me running in my favourite park

Me running in my favourite park

I’m training for a marathon! Not just an early retirement marathon, but a physical, lactic acid build up kind of marathon.

While financial goals are not hard for me to make/keep, my fitness goals often go to the wayside.

Actually I don’t make any fitness goals asides from “I need to move more“, because I’m too intimidated to be more specific. :/

That’s why I decided to sign up for a local marathon when my company offered to sponsor their employees. It’s good PR to show their presence, and I’ll get a free t-shirt out of it too.

Yes, I’m a corporate @#%$*!

But I’ve always wanted to push myself to run a marathon, and now I have no excuses.

Just like I’m pushing myself to strive for early retirement. They feel similar to me because they both require discipline, focus, grit, endurance, and introspective honesty. It’s also not impossible for the average person (me!) to achieve. It just requires the right kind of prioritization.

I’m not the best runner out there, but I’m slowly starting to train. I ran 3.1km (2 miles) today in 25 minutes, which (don’t laugh) was a big deal for me.

Luckily this run is only 6km. It’s also next month so I have time to work up to facing this goal.

I’m a little nervous, but also feel excited and blessed to be able to try. Life is grand. ūüôā

Liebster Award

liebsteraward

The fun people at our next life have nominated me for the Liebester Award. Vielen Dank nochmals! ūüôā

ONL are a couple of DINKs in their mid-30’s from the USA, who have a retire early date of December 2017. They’re blogging anonymously now but are planning to reveal themselves once they retire, so it’s a pretty exciting time to jump in on their story. They’re also dog people which is a big plus in my books!

What’s a Liebster Award?

The Liebster Award is passed on from blog to blog to help the personal finance community discover new and upcoming blogs, while learning more about its bloggers in the process.

The rules are simple:

You are to share 11 facts about yourself so readers can get to know you better.

  • mention the person who nominated you.
  • answer the 5-11 questions that the nominator asked.
  • nominate another couple bloggers to receive the liebster award and ask them 5-11 questions.
  • let your nominees know either by leaving a comment on their blog, sending them an email, calling them out on social media, etc.

11 facts about me

1. Due to lifestyle choices (travelling, studying), I didn’t start my career until I was 30.

2.¬†Freelancers in my field make literally 3x as much as I do. One day I plan on freelancing too, but for now I’m still gaining experience and building up my network.

3. I’ve moved to Germany twice. Once in 2009 and again in 2010. But I don’t count my first stint, because I was only travelling. It was my second move that really felt like a move.

4. My German is terrible. But I’m learning.

5. I’ve been vegetarian since I was 13, and on my 30th birthday, I finally went vegan. Within the first 5 days of being vegan, I knew it was the best decision I had ever made. For the animals, for myself, for the environment, for my health, and even for my relationship. Once you cut out animal products completely, you see how senseless it is to ingest and use animal products to begin with. Plus, your body thanks you!

6. When I was doing my undergrad, I worked 1-4 jobs to put myself through school while taking on a full course load. I ended up graduating debt free, and with a healthy 5-figures in the bank.

7. When I was in grad school, I landed a ‘real job’ before graduating. So it took me 3 years instead of 2 to finish my Master’s. While it was doable for me to work so much in my undergrad, it was really really really hard for me to do the same in grad school.

8. I’m a woman of colour. My ethnicity is Chinese. Germans tend to find me interesting since I look Asian but speak with an American (Canadian!) accent. I don’t bother telling them that there are millions of me in North America. ūüôā

9. My favourite city is Paris, and I’ve been there 7 times. I also love London and have been there 5 times. In total I’ve been to 25+ countries.

10. Mr. German and I met in Canada while he was passing through. We then had a long distance relationship for the next 3.5 years, before I moved to Germany (twice – see #3). We’ve been together for a while, even though we’re newlyweds.

11. Dogs. I’m a crazy dog lady.

dogs_working_together

Answers to our next life‘s questions

1. Describe your dream day once you are able to retire early. My dream day is pretty much this picture:

campervan

Waking up in an RV that’s parked on a beach. Doing some yoga, eating fresh fruit, then getting my surf on.

2. Once you‚Äôve reached financial independence, do you have any creative trades or hobbies you want to pursue? My hobby is [trying to] lead a healthy life. Mostly my career hinders this, as I spend a disproportionate amount of time sitting and staring at a light bulb (computer screen). I try to be as healthy as I can given these constraints, but working can really cramp my style. Once I reach FI, I’d like to quit and devote my time to being healthy. Eating tons of fresh fruits and veggies, surfing, hiking, biking, yoga, etc… As for creative outlets, I play the piano and had a hard time deciding between science and music as a major. (I chose science) It would be great for my soul to spend more time music making.

3. Where are you most eager to travel once you have time to travel slowly? I’m most eager to do a Great Canadian Roadtrip from coast to coast!! I haven’t travelled much of Canada yet, so it’s about time, eh? After that, I’d like to slow-travel and maybe set up a second base¬†in Asia. I’m partial to Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Mainland China.

4. What‚Äôs the biggest sacrifice you‚Äôve made to further your fi/re goals? Moving to Germany! And then¬†actively choosing to live in a blue-collared¬†city to drastically reduce our costs. Of course when I moved to Germany, I was in my 20’s and drunk on love with a hot German guy. Now I’m in my 30’s and drunk on love with a hot German guy, but I can also see the benefits that living here brings. Financially I earn less than my Canadian and American friends, but the cost of living here is very low compared to where I’m from. Culturally, it’s also easy to be frugal here because Germans are also frugal, which I appreciate a lot.

5. What financial advice do you wish you could go back and give your 20-year-old self? Sell your Nortel stocks, stat! Yes, I was a holder of Nortel when it was $100+. I had inherited them when Nortel broke off from its parent company, which I was a shareholder of. In general I would also encourage my young self to take charge of her finances by learning how to invest, and to not bother wasting time ‘thinking’ about real estate. In my 20’s, I had always assumed I would invest heavily in real estate, but turns out, that’s the worst investment for someone like me who prefers NO maintenance investments. My 20 year old self didn’t need much financial advice though. She needed to love herself more, to enjoy life more, and to ditch that guy who kept disappointing her!

My nominees

Now I’d like to pass on the Liebster Award to Insider Accountant and Chun Yi at Smart Kohle. Insider Accountant is a 32 year old who works in finance and shows us what it’s like to reach for FI in Australia. He also likes shopping at Aldi! Chun Yi is an Engineer, Singaporean, and fellow ex-pat living in Germany, who may or may not like shopping at Aldi. He aims for FI and writes the very helpful Smart Kohle guides for confused expats like me. While his site is more information portal than blog, I’m still nominating him in case he wants to participate.

I really like Chasing Gains’ questions in his Liebster Award entry, so I will pose most of them to my liebsters too, if CG doesn’t mind:

1. If you could move to any part of the world right now, where would you go and why?

2. Favourite activity to do on weekends?

3. You win $10 million in the lotto, how do you spend, save or invest it?

4. Is your partner on board with FIRE?

5. Why did you start blogging?

6. What is your favourite place that you have visited?

7. If money wasn’t a factor, what would be your dream job?

8. What is your overall goal in life?

Viel erfolg!