It is history week at Cheesy Finance, with two posts this week about our historical financial affairs. Today we will focus on our historical Savings Rates. Later this week we will look at historical Return on Investment and income asset allocations.

Historical Savings Rates

We kept detailed records of our spending since about mid-2010. But we had some partial household overviews from 2006-2008, plus bank statements, pay checks and receipts from (large) expenses to puzzle together the remaining years. Everything up to and including 2010 is therefore our best guess, everything from 2011 is pretty accurate.

An overview of our savings rates for the period from 2006 to 2016 (and the average to date) is shown in the figure below:

Historical Savings Rates

Historical Savings Rates from Team CF between 2006 and 2016

A Bit of Team CF Life History

Mrs CF started her career in about 2004, Mr CF started his in 2006. Both of us graduated with MSc degrees in our fields. When we met in 2004, Mrs CF had just about paid off here student loans. Mr CF (thanks many as three side jobs at one time and his parents) was able to graduate without any student loans at all.

Before we started living together in the same home in 2007, we still each had a student accommodation (costing about €275-350/month). When we moved in together we rented a small place for about €600/month (including heating, excluding electricity/water/internet). This place was a lot bigger than our student accommodations but overall costed about the same.

At this time Mrs. CF has a pretty good job as an accountant, Mr CF had a job which included extended travel outside the country. In short, we were (still) living like students and had good pay-checks. Because we were somewhat frugal by nature, our savings rate started out really good in the beginning. But then Mr CF got restless……and consumerism/”keeping up with the joneses” started to take hold.

Saving Rate Developments over the Years

As noted and shown in the previous paragraphs, the savings rates between 2006 and 2008 were pretty good as we kept our life simple and only had a small apartment. Then we moved to Canada in 2009, this obviously was not cheap as you have to start your life again (although the visa’s and move were paid for by the company). For most of 2009 only Mr. CF had a job and Mrs. CF did lots of job interviews (bad timing with the crisis ongoing), studying and volunteer work. However, we bought a new car and motorcycle that same year.

As of 2010 we both had full time employment and life was good. We did lots of hiking, travelling but still kept our budget in check. We had also purchased a home in 2010 (reasonable timing as far a purchase price, but it was a massive 280 square metre (3000sf) McMansion!), a second car and upsized the motorcycle. We actually sunk virtually all our savings from 2006-2009 into the house, cars and motorcycles. Consumerism at its finest.

In 2011 and 2013 our incomes kept getting bigger, but our expenses stayed about the same. In short, pretty good savings rates for those years. It’s interesting to see the good saving rates despite getting married, doing a 20-day Hawaii honeymoon and Miss CF being born in those years.

The Transition Years

As of 2014 the effects of Miss CF being with us, and associated parental leave, are becoming visible. The lack of income, some extended travel and daycare costs start to have a big effect on the savings rate. However, 2014 was also the year that the FIRE principles started to take shape. The parental leave gave us insight into living with all the time in the world on a modest income. Then Mrs CF discovered ERE and things rapidly progressed from there with the purchase of our first two rentals.

2015, which was a massive transition year, was pretty “bad” from a savings perspective. We emigrated back from Canada to the Netherlands, but this time we had to pay for the international move ourselves. We also were unemployed for about 3-5 months that year, and we did a bit of travelling as well. It was a great year, just not from a savings perspective 🙂

Last year (2016) was a turn-around year, for the better. We both were employed for the whole year, had good incomes, our investments did well and we managed to add 2 properties and one workshop (as well as one property for ourselves) to our portfolio. The savings rate is back into the right territory, despite the massive costs of day-care for Miss CF (about 30% of our total expenses). We did not travel much last year either, which is not necessarily a bad thing as we did quite a bit of travelling over the years. But it obviously had a big positive impact on the savings rate.

The Future?

For 2017 we hope to keep this momentum going! But there are many developments and ideas we are working on, we don’t know yet how the year is going to turn out. If we keep our employment as it is now, we hope to remain around the 50% mark. This is driven by day-care costs and renovation works scheduled, plus catching up on travelling.

How about you, do you know how your savings rates developed over the years?

it’s time to talk about cheese: The Cheesy Index! These updates are so much fun to make, grabbing all the financials from all asset groups and seeing where we are on the path to FI.

January 2017 Cheesy Index

We ended 2016 with a record high 57.4% on the Cheesy Index. This was primarily due to a good stockmarket and lot’s of income in the last two months of 2016 (had very good savings rates too).

This month we are happy to report another increase! We are up to 58.2%, that’s 0.8% for the month. If we multiply that with 12, we should be able to add 9.6% to the Cheesy Index this year. If that were true, we would easily reach our target of 65% by the end of the year!

But it’s only January and we have not seen a market correction in quite some time. We are therefore very curious to see what will happen when a correction happens. Talking to other (non) bloggers about 2 weeks ago in Antwerp, the feeling appears to be horrible and you cannot really prepare (we have not lived through a correction that hit us financially). That does not boost well…

Exchange Rates

We correct our net worth (and therefore indirectly the Cheesy Index) for currencies. Each month we record the exchange rates at midnight of the last day of the month. These rates are used to calculate everything from wealth to dividends. We have been rather lucky in the last year as exchange rates have favoured our wealth number. But this cannot continue indefinitely. We are therefore anticipating a correction and therefore lower Cheesy Index growth rates this year. We still hope to reach our 2017 target, but we are mindful that the stockmarket and currency market need to be in our favour to make that happen. Our only benefit is our real estate, which does not fluctute as much. Time will tell!

How did you do financially in January? Did you also reach a record high?


Mr. CF was driving to work one morning last december when I heard a loud bang on the front windshield….. A big crack appeared throughout the front windshield, darn. Well, we are insured for stuff like this, so filled in the online form and got the insurance process started. “Great fun”. First thing was to find the right windshield to replace the cracked on, sounds simple, right?

The Missing Windshield

When I called the garage to I told them about the cracked windshield and that the car is imported from Canada. No problem he said, but do drop by so that he could have a look. Considering the repair shop is close by our house, I drove by on the way back from work.

At the shop, the owner looked at the various ID markers on the car and window. Later that day he called and told me to come back 10 days later for an install (this was just before Christmas, so it took more time than usual). Perfect, I was off for the Christmas break anyways and could drop by on the proposed time and date. Problem solved, right? Wrong!

When I arrived at the repair shop, they partially ripped out the windshield before they realized that the one they had was too small! Huh? How does that work, the car is the same shape and size as the European model? Anyway, went home with a complely ruined front windshield and a nasty feeling.

The nasty feeling is not because of the window being broken, but because the APK ((bi)-yearly mandatory inspection for cars in the Netherlands) was due late February. With the broken window I could not pass the impection. If you do not have a valid APK, you have to park the car as you are no longer permitted to drive! Still, we had a few more weeks before it would become an issue. We were positive for a good ending.

Car Scare

Car Scare

About 4 weeks later (after several calls back and forth) the guy calls me back to say he cannot find the windshield. He told me to go to the dealership to have another look. I did that a soon as possible and drove by the repair shop again to find out that…..they could not supply an new windshield until halfway April! Oops….

This news meant that we now had to suspend the car (costing €70) as of the APK laps date, arrange loaner cars, rental cars or otherwise (I still need to get to work!). Aahhh. Have you ever looked at what a car rental costs for almost 7 weeks? In the netherlands, at the lowest possible price for a very small car (think Toyota Aygo), you are looking at close to €1.000. This is not really money we want to be spending!

The only “good” thing is that when you suspend your car, you can also suspend road tax and insurance. This would “save” us about €200. Fortunately after some asking around, we were able to arrange cars for about 5 our of the 7 weeks. So just two weeks of potential rentals required (thank you family). Then we get a call in the first week of February…

Good News!

They found the windshield, so I quickly made a appointment two days later to have it installed. It turned out that they were looking at the wrong vehicle and had ordered the wrong window to begin with (they got it for a regular version of the car, not the wagon). So as soon as we had the new windshield, we also drove by an APK certified car dealership to have the APK inspection completed the same day.

We are now able to (legally) drive the car until 2019 on Dutch roads, and we see out of the front windshield again. In the end it did not cost us a cent extra, but it did gave us a good car scare!

Have you ever had a car scare? Where you lucky too?

Monthly Dividend Overview

The January Dividend Update is usually a stable one as there are relatively few companies that pay in the first (and second) month of the year. However, we have many monthy dividend payers, so our distribution throughout the year is somewhat stable.

We also purchased some additional shares this month, which include:

  • 100 shares of AH
  • 100 shares of RDSA
  • 50 shares of UNA
  • Tons of DRIP shares including BCE, CWB, AAR.UN and many more

January Dividends

When we added up all the deposits into the bank accounts, we received a very respectable €544, that is a 61% YOY increase! That’s pretty good, would love to keep that going (despite knowing it is not sustainable…..)

Dividend Stock Overview

Our dividend portfolio now contains 45 companies with a total of 10.585 shares and looks like this (up 3.233 shares from a year ago):

Dividend Sector Breakdown

When you breakdown the previously shown dividend stock overview by sector, it looks as follows:

How was your January from a dividend perspective? Were you happy with the results?

Antwerp Meetup

Before we get into the nitty gritty of the Saving Rate for the Month of January, let’s review our Meetup on Antwerp last Saturday (February 4). We personally had a great time, we enjoyed the presentations, discussions and the great open atmosphere in the room. We had over 20 people show up for this event, some bloggers, some not, some for a second time, some new, some young, some “not so young anymore”. In short, it was a very fun very interesting day. Thank you everyone for attending and your inputs, it was awesome!

We are seriously looking forward to the next event and have a long list of ideas that we want to pass by you all for some feedback and inputs! So keep eye on your mail box (for those whom attended one of the last two events), this blog or that of  Amber Tree Leaves.

January Finances

Ok, back to the financial stuff again: The Savings Rate. January was again a “normal” month (after the really spectacular November and December months of last year) from a saving rate perspective. Let’s have a quick look at what happened:

  • Regular (so one each) incomes from Mr. and Mrs. CF where deposited in the checking account;
  • There was a surprise in crowdfunding income. One project actually went bankrupt (second issue out of 34 projects) but was bought out by another party! We suddenly got paid out the total remainig loan! Lovely, 7.5% interest on 13 months and full investment back. Bring on more of those! Total “income” (interest and principal payments) from crowdfunding was €355;
  • No surprises on the living side of things. But we did finally get the bill for the roof replacement and repair work done in 2016. This was a rather “pleasant” surprise (for as far as a bill is pleasant), as it was a couple hundred lower than we expected and came in at just over 513 (it also helped that Mr. CF assisted to contractor in his work). No complaining at all!
  • Other costs in the Living and Healthcare category included some sewage taxes (€109), quarterly water bill (€41) and insurance premiums (€182);
  • Transport costs are increasing due to using our car again to get to work (company car is gone). Total costs for the month included about €336, which is primarily fuel (€112), road tax (€179) and insurance (€25);
  • Grocery costs were lower than normal this month, as we are still partially living off the large shopping spree from last December. Total spend was about €266;
  • The kid category was pretty stable too, not much more spend than the day care fees (net fees are about €950 – looking forward to Miss CF going to school by the end of this year, should cut the costs down to about 1/3rd or less!);
  • Travel and Leisure included some activities with Miss CF (skating on a market square). We also had tons of birthdays in January, so lot’s of “free” entertainment (gifts, if any, are covered in the “other” category); and,
  • Other items included a replacement charger for the our camera battery (€23) and a transformer (58) for the PS3 we brought back from Canada.

January Savings Rate 

All the above boiled down to a savings rate of 55.8%, we are pretty happy with that, because this is about as good as it gets for us! 

If you breakdown our expenses for the month, the distribution looks like this:

How was your Savings Rate for January? Where you happy with the results, if not, why?

Net Worth

Some of you may be familiar with J$ (or J-Money), whom runs the websites and (both very entertaining websites/blogs by the way). On you can also find a list of net worth updates from various personal finance bloggers. It’s quite diverse as it ranges from as much as -$0,5M to as much as +$4M, and everything in between. The list of millionaires is quickly growing as more people blog about their finances and are open in discussing where they are and how they got there. Albeit we don’t post our net worth (we do have the Cheesy Index of course!), most of you that have been here before and are keeping track of what we do, should have a pretty good idea of what we are worth.

Earlier this week, Mr. 1500 posted another similar and rather personal question to his readers to divulge their net worth’s, what followed next in the comments section was rather spectacular! I was reading it all with awe. There were so many non-bloggers and bloggers that were very open about their finances and many (new?) millionaires-next-door popped up, some folks who’s comments I’ve been reading for a while or others I’ve never seen before.

Feeling a bit like a loser…

But seeing all these millions pop up, it suddenly made me feel like a loser! Although our net worth is nothing to sneeze at, we are nowhere near any of these $1-2,5M numbers. And most likely we won’t even reach anywhere near these numbers in the next decade….

This actually has two reasons, one: we don’t need that much money to live and two: I don’t’ want to be working for a boss so much longer (I simply don’t like my job that much). Will be ultimately hit a 7 figure number, absolutely, just not any time soon (at least I hope not because that would mean someone would have died and left us a sizable inheritance. It won’t be the lottery, since we don’t play :-).

Strangely enough, it was both motivating and demotivating at the same time. On one side you kind of want to be that successful financially, it would really be a pat on the back that you have been frugal, have invested well and have made the “right” decisions. On the other side, we only saw “the light of FIRE” about two and a half years ago. We have made massive turn around in that time, cleaned up our act, moved internationally and nearly quadrupled the value of our income producing assets and added 5 properties to our portfolio. That on its own should be something to be proud of! But it doesn’t feel that way…..

Patience is a virtue

Maybe I want to much too soon, building wealth takes research, efforts, time and patience. Not doing this would actually hamper you efforts to increase your wealth and would probably even make you unhappy. My major problem is patience, it’s not my strongest character trade. I can get really motivated and can achieve quite a bit in a relatively short period of time. When the changes are visible quickly, it really motivates me more, again improving the results in return. But at some point you have done as much as you can and just need to “ride it out” to the finish line (read: keep on saving and investing).

Any words of wisdom?? How do you deal with motivating yourself on the path to FIRE? Do you know that double feeling when looking at others that are already successful on obtaining the status of FI?

I’ve run out of evening to make a longer, more elaborate post regarding the Real Estate Report, so will keep this short and simple for today. Any questions, please do leave a comment 🙂

Rental Income

Rental income is boring this month, no vacancies and every rent wat paid on time, yeah!

Rental Expenses

Expenses were a bit higher then anticipated. Primarily due to high costs on the boiler systems of two units. One had a leaking valve, which set us back about €77. Both units needed to be fitted with Carbon Monoxide switches, as both were deemed at risk by the original manufacturer. The cost: €35 for the two sensors. The tTotal cost for the two boilers: €315 (normally that should be €156).

Other expenses for the month are:

  • Interest costs (mortgage and loan)
  • Insurance costs
  • Property mangement costs

Real Estate Report – Overview

Still, a pretty good month none the less. We still made well over €2.000 in net rental income (granted, before taxes!):

There will be some significant costs made next month as two units will be fitted with continuous ventilation. Furthermore the moisture issue will hopefully be tackled too with a lead slap and expoy barrier being placed within the wall. Costs will probably whipe out rental income for the month of Februari and/or March. Depends on when the work is executed and the bill arrives.

But at least we won’t kill our tenants with mold and we will also keep the building in better shape by keeping moisture levels down.


Asset Allocations

Portfolio Allocations

This is the final 2016 overview and today we will take a bit more of a helicopter view of the portfolio. The data behind the Cheesy Index is obviously based on net worth. Our network consists of three types of assets:

  • Income producing assets (by dividend, cash flow or capital gains)
  • assets that do not produce any income (cash, our home, certain belongings)
  • Depreciating assets (i.e. our car)

If you add the value up for all these assets you get your net worth, when you then divide each category by this net worth value you get some idea how well your net worth is working for you. Ideally you want to have your income assets as high as possible, limit your non-income assets and have no depreciating assets (when possible). Our asset allocation for 2016 looked like this:

We are actually pretty pleased that we are now above 80% with our income producing assets. The ultimate goal is to have this exceed 90%, perhaps even get to 95%. For this we would have to rent our own home and find some small rental for ourselves or a very cheap property (perhaps abroad?).

Income Producing Assets

The income producing assets are obviously also able to be distributed into various sub-categories. For us these include:

  • Our real estate;
  • The dividend shares;
  • Our Index funds; and finally,
  • The various Crowdfunding loans.

Looking at the above graph you can see that we are heavy on real estate and dividend paying companies. Which we are ok with, but we are considering two options:

  • From now on adding only new capital to index funds and dividend share; or,
  • Cashing in on the Index Funds and/or some dividend share and purchase more real estate.

The first option is pretty straight forward, income from work and rentals is use to purchase more individual share and ETF’s. This would diversify our portfolio and also improve liquidity (i.e. we can get to money faster). Considering cost averaging, this could be a nice way to get to FI in the coming years.

The second option is interesting because you can use leverage of a mortgage or loan to increase your number of rentals and get relatively high yields. But this would also mean more management and some head-aches with related to issues that need fixing and/or high bills from contractors (which is not helping cash-flow). Considering we would like to be location independent at some point (with potentially periods of long-term stays abroad), real estate is doable, but dividend shares and ETF’s are definitely preferred options for us.


We have not decided what to do at this time and are considering various scenarios. What are your ideas about our portfolio? Which one has got your preference from the above two options?

Oh, and crowd funding will be brought down in both scenarios, as noted here earlier. This money will be reinvested as it comes available in the next few years. Fortunately it’s only a minor portion of the portfolio.

How is your portfolio allocated? Are you happy with it?

Weekend DIY

There are days when we like our old home (built ~1901-1910), nothing is straight, nice high ceilings, beautiful large windows (ok, these were added later, but still). The house also make noise when the wind blows and there is some differential settlement (i.e. the house tilts a bit). Very nostalgic.

But last weekend there was a bit of reflection on all this emotional “wealth”. Mrs. CF and Miss CF went to grandma to make cakes and I finally had the time to start on some of the issues that need inspection, maintenance or repairs. And boy, do you find a lot of (hidden) stuff when you get going….

  • Today I’ve cleaned gutters and removed some rubble, to find that our neighbours need to seriously start looking at their roof (fortunately not my problem, but did inform them to have a look). However our own gutters also need some work done in the next couple of years (this was known already);
  • I’ve finally replaced the rain cover on the central heating unit vent. The old one was blown off in a storm a while back and I had installed an improvised temporary cover (made from a tin can with holes to limit rain from entering the exhaust vent), so I would have time to find a replacement part. Guess what, no longer available (went to 4 DIY stores)…even the original supplier did not have any (they did quote me a whole new vent system….yeah, right). So I had to be a bit creative and modified the vent to accommodate a different model rain cover, with success! I was very proud of myself 😉
  • The thermostat-controlled tap in the bathroom was not working properly and appeared to be leaking (streaks of calcium carbonate). The shower head was also loose and needed to be re-fixed to the wall. So took everything down, removed staining from calcium carbonate, to find out that I had to completely disassemble the thermostat-controlled tap including wall connections (which is where the leaks were). Reassembled, to find that it was till leaking…but now at the washers. Drove to the local building supply store to get new washers, disassembled/reassembled the whole thing again, but this time successfully! Finished with a bit of caulking, as this was not done at the water lines coming out of the wall (during the home inspection elevated moisture levels were detected in the wall, so this should be fixed now too);
  • We also had another leaking radiator, but this seems to have stopped leaking after we opened and closed various venting and closing systems a couple of times. Need to keep an eye out.

Cost for today: ~€10 (washers, kit and hemp) and too many hours of labour… but at least I learned a couple of new things.

Reno gone wrong? (source:

2017 Home Maintenance

Other items that need work in the coming year:

  • Replacement of two sets of window frames (completely rotten, was known at time of the purchase, the new ones are already painted and we also already have the glass), this will be two days of installations and painting. Will need a contractor to help out with this due to weight and access.
  • Finishing trim around newly installed flat bituminous roof (will be done by a contractor).
  • I’d already repaired the design radiator in the bathroom, or so I thought I did, turns out it’s still leaking and will need another go at removing rust, adding hemp fibre/kit to seal and spray paint to finish… more work, yeah!
  • Painting of most windows and doors (was done with environmentally friendly linseed paint, nice mat finish, but some spots need fixing as it was not applied properly the first time around). This stuff should last long (~15 years) and is completely non-toxic, but needs to be rubbed in linseed oil every now and then. So you pretty much have to do all windows and doors….
  • Several km of caulking upstairs and in the bathrooms…lovely
  • Local roof repair to mitigate a small leak somewhere. Think I have it nailed down where the source is, but will need contractor to help me out as it’s inaccessible for me.
  • Upstairs still needs some doorframes painted, moulding placed and wall’s touched up (this may turn into 2018…)

Are we done yet? Nope, still considering installing noise insulation, as we currently only have newly installed heat insulation. Considering we are living close to a local road, and there are lots of “wild” chickens around (read: about 8 Roosters….sigh), this extra sound insulation is really beneficial for you sleep.

Also need to replace and enlarge the kitchen, this will be a major reno and will likely take about 6 weeks to complete and cost around €25.000-30.000 when done with a contractor. Still trying to figure out how we are going to attack this one…

What’s really ironic here is that I left a comment here (in Dutch) where I noted that we usually get a contractor in to do the works (because we are too busy with work, life, kid, etc.). But now I’m starting to try to do most myself, I keep surprising Mrs. CF  🙂 Time is still an issue though.

How about you? How are your DIY skills? Do you balance between doing stuff yourself and hiring a contractor, or are you hardcore?

A Financial Party

Are you in for a bit of a “financial party” in Antwerp (Belgium) on February 4, 2017? If so, please do let us (Amber Tree Leave or Team CF) know! We have arranged a venue in Antwerp and have about 20 or so people coming, but can accommodate a few more.

The plan for the day is to gather between 11:00 and 13:00, you can bring your own lunch is you want, or get something from the local eateries.

From 13:00 we will have some informal chats and general introductions (i.e. you talk to whom you like and have a cup to tea/coffee or a Belgium beer)

At 14:00 we will start with the discussion and presentation portion of the day, this is what we have planned so far:

  • A guide to financial independence – if you really, really want it fast (By the Financial Freedom Sloth)
  • Options Trading (by Mr Amber Tree Leaves)
  • Group Discussion: Systems vs Goals
  • How to become financially independent in the Netherland and associated official retirement implications and options (By Mr FOB – site is primarily in Dutch, but has google translate option to English) 
  • If time permits, a short review of real estate investing will be done by yours truly.

Around 17:00 we will divert to the dining location

From 20:00 we can start to explore the nightlife Antwerp has to offer. Considering Belgium is the country of the world’s best beers (Ok, personal opinion but still very much true ;-), this should be lots of fun.

More Details

You will be responsible for your own costs for food and drinks. So you can make it as expensive or cheap as you like (really frugal folks will bring their own. No, this is not called “being cheap”!).

The venue is easily reachable by public transport, but you can also park your car for free along the river Scheldt and walk to downtown. Parking is available along the St.Michielskaai/Cockerillkaai/De Gerlagkaai.

We will only request a small (<€5pp) compensation for the rental of the venue and associated costs.

Interested? Drop us an email or leave a comment!

P.s. if you want to meet some of the hotshots of the FI world (such as Mr Collins and the Madfientist), you can also check out this:

Most likely an event to remember, but does not come cheap at around €2.500-2.700pp (for 7 days, includes everything but the flight to the UK). There were still some spots left. We have considered going, but have decided against it and instead invest the money to become FI faster.