About 14 months ago, I was having fun in a warm country, working my tail off for 12 hours per day, looking at the beach every day. When I returned home, life was different. I went straight into a lockdown like most of you. It sucked, however it was the right think to do. But what the heck did we actually do the past year or so? What’s up next? Life as we know it is still taking new shapes and is not done evolving.
Fast-forward 14 months and we are still in a lockdown. Albeit if you go outside right now, you would not think you we are in one anymore. Heck, it’s busy outside. Unfortunately, it’s not over yet either. The vaccination program is finally picking up some steam here in the Netherlands. But this is not the case all over the globe. So me may get some more freedoms around here in the coming weeks and months, but travel will still be quite different/restricted to many places. Why is this important? Well, I like to go back to work for a few more years and explore places and countries where I would normally not go myself (on vacation). More on this later. First a quick recap of lockdown life as we know it.
Home-schooling. It went pretty good, how do we know? We managed to increase all our daughters scores on her school (CITO) tests from a year ago. Some items by quite a lot. Personalized education really helps kids, especially those that are smart, they can really shine and improve a lot. But it takes a lot of time and efforts as parents. Fortunately we both were unemployed during the lockdowns in 2020, so had tons of time to help out.
Did I like it? Honestly, no. It was never a career path that I would have chosen. I get my kicks out of other challenges. But I did get more respect for our teachers, that’s for sure! Looking back, it does feel satisfactory knowing that our daughter improved on all fronts.
We bought our current home with this idea to split and rent out. For this we had to do some major renovations. This included two new kitchens, new heating systems, insulation, flooring, new water and gas lines, painting, new doors, and more. We budgeted about €50.000 for all the works and, albeit we are not completely done yet (about 95% complete), we will come in under budget!
The reason why we kept it relatively inexpensive, is because I did a lot of the work myself. We also have a carpenter friend that we pay for his time and efforts, but he works below normal market rates. Double win. Actually triple win, because I learned a lot of new skills the past year! Although it’s not completely done, we are happy with the results and also already noticed a further drop in gas use for heating during the last winter.
Later this year we will also do more renovations on the outside of the property, adding more insulation and upgrading gutters. This will be done by professionals as I lack the skills and tools to do this properly. It will also improve the value of the property by looking pretty and being even better insulated.
Once the majority of the renovations were completed I decided to pickup working out again. I started running again just before Christmas. I’ve decided to give myself the challenge to run every other day for the entire 2021. That’s 182 runs (started on January 2nd), and I’m trying to complete 1200km this year (~28,5 marathons) in total running distance. That’s 6,6km per run on average. Because I had to start from scratch, I’m still behind schedule for now. But this will work itself out thru the rest of the year as I’m now running longer distances. So far I’ve managed to not miss a single run, despite several (snow)storms. Running against 90km/h wind gusts is …uhhm…. “interesting”.
I was still using a older Garmin sports watch till late March 2021 (a Garmin Forerunner 310XT). “Unfortunately” it is still working fine. Normally I don’t replace items until they break or do not function properly anymore. However, this time I did. The newer sports watches are far better in terms of GPS connectivity, functions, training programs, data tracking, storage capacity, etc. After some digging around I found myself a new toy, a Fenix 6s. I love that thing! One of the best purchase I made in the past years.
The major downside is that I now want to collect as many badges within GarminConnect as I can (for steps. goals, challenges, running distances, cycling and more). But for me that means that I over exert myself easily. I just go too fast/too far for what my 40 year old body can handle. I know, I’m not 20 anymore! My body doesn’t recover as fast as it used to.
To illustrate the effect of getting a new sportswatch, see graph below. I’m already way ahead of March, and we still have a week to go this month….
Just being lazy
If you look at the activities in the past year, you hardly would think I’m lazy. But I am. Lazy. I’m really good at it actually. Been binge watching my way through the last winter. I’ve also wasted tons of time on social media (except last January) and reading news online. Gosh it’s nice to do nothing! Glad I don’t have to work 😉
New job for Mrs CF and being a SAHD
Mrs CF had not worked since early 2020, same as me. But she was getting restless and looking forward to having a job again. She finds challenges and satisfaction in the work she does. So she went job hunting after the summer of 2020. Initially with little to no result (it’s hard to find a job for 3 days per week with responsibilities). It was actually quite frustrating. No invitations to job interview, rejections, it was no fun. So we looked at our bank account and investments and decided, f*ck it, why bother! So she stopped looking just before Christmas.
Guess what, second week of January she get’s a message from a recruiter. She has 3 interviews in the two weeks thereafter and starts a new job with great pay at the end of the month. Go figure. Life can be interesting at times…
A couple months later and she is still loving it! I’m now back at being a stay at home dad (SAHD). As for me there are still no opportunities to travel and work internationally. Ah well, I can keep myself entertained for now, I just go for another run or cycle ride.
House hunting and what’s next
Now that the renovations were practically finished in late 2020, with the exception of some finishing touches, it was time to start finding a new place for us to live. As Mrs CF has a new job she likes, we slightly changed the criteria as to where we wanted to live. The hunt began (technically, it never really stopped since we started the renovations in 2020, but alas).
We looked at various places. From townhouses to villa’s. From old to new. Different sizes. We did the works. We found a couple that we liked, put in some offers, but to our frustrations, nothing. Honestly, we were not even close. This video pretty much sums it up:
— Brent (@TheFoodTruckCEO) April 21, 2021
And our latest experience was this:
Called the real estate broker to find out what it sold for, didn’t get the final price but could narrow it down by asking a few questions: likely sold for around €70.000 over list price or about 21-22%.
Sorry, not going to pay ~€400.000 for a townhouse! https://t.co/BXJjA5PsBl
— Cheesy Finance (@CheesyFinance) April 16, 2021
Hence, we decided to throw in the towel on this whole house hunting and moving thing. The market is just crazy and we are not paying 120 for an apple! We will stay put for now (with two kitchens and two bathrooms). Also investing in real estate is not going to happen any time soon, return/risk ratio is not what we would like. Actually, the plan is to try to pay of the mortgage as soon as possible. That way we have no liabilities, maximum cash-flow and little worries.
Based on current real estate and stock market valuations, our networth has realistically already blasted passed the €1M mark. We really just need to focus on wealth preservation rather than continued growth. Which should not be a problem with Mrs CF now working again.
What’s next? I’m still hopeful that I might be able to travel and work by the end of this year. In the mean time it’s just a matter of keeping healthy, having fun within all the restrictions of life and appreciating life as we know it!
How did you do?