Hi, I’m Cheesy Finance and I’m NOT an alcoholic. If you look at “our” twitter feed (ok, it’s just mine) you’d think differently. But really, I’m not an alcoholic, I just like beer 🙂 Or am I now in denial, really can’t tell.

We really love beer - we really do

We really love beer – we really do
Source: http://www.we-love-craft.beer/

Hi, I’m Cheesy Finance and I’m NOT an alcoholic

Yes, I really do like beer. But in 2017 I made the decision to only damage my body with alcohol if it is actually worth it. In short, no more cheap beer or “regular” stuff. Taste matters, quality matters, really good beer matters.

To prove my point, see below for several exhibits on me not being an alcoholic, but a genuine beer lover.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C (Ok, this might be the right one……what was I saying about being a non-alcoholic again… Oh right 0% beer, see alcohol is bad for the memory 😉 )

Exhibit D

Money and Beer

Beer is cheap, good beer not so much. Some people are not going to agree on this, but you could also considering drinking less beer, good beer that is. Most good beer has a lot of alcohol in it anyways, it’s much heavier and really deserves to be enjoyed slowly. That’s what I’m doing, I drink good beer, just not a whole lot of it, no really.

Where to get your beer and when? I’ve noticed that around year end many beers go on sale, so stocking up is always a good option. That is obviously what I have been doing over the Christmas break. Should have enough to last me a few months. Most of my beer is coming from the supermarket at this stage, I’ll move into the specialty stores when I’m out of new options. I’ve already been scouting 😉

Twitter and Beer

A special thanks goes out to my fellow non-alcoholics, aka beer lovers and (former) beer brewers!. Folks, please keep the inspiration coming and the beers flowing! One special thanks goes out to  Waffles on Wednesday: the #drunkonfire mastermind! Make sure to visit and please add some good stuff yourself too!

Roadmap2Retire is also good at joining the party!

My fellow countrywoman and former beer brewer is also truly inspirational

And Carl, what’s to say about Mr. 1500 himself?

Cheers!

Gosh, I’m thirsty now! Might need to get myself a beer.

 

 

What is your favorite beer and what is your financial strategy for your beer collection?

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Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and all the best wishes for 2018. We hope that your 2017 was awesome for you (and your family) and that you can continue this trend in 2018.

We also wanted to thank all of our readers for the support and feedback we have received over the past year. It’s been very rewarding to have been able to make this FIRE journey with you al, both online and in person. We hope that we are able to meet many of you in real life at some point (perhaps already in 2018?). On that note, looking forward to next Saturday for some stroopwafels, cheese and beer. Until that time, enjoy the food, fun, family and friends!

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

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We thought we had bought our first bond a couple weeks ago. But after some digging this turned out to not be (completely) true. The Dutch term for the product we bought is an “obligatielening”. An “obligatie” is a bond.  A “lening” is a loan. So what did we get, a bond or a loan? Either way, we did some ethical investing!

Sustainable Bonds vs. Loans

When I started to write this post I did not have much knowledge about bonds. Why not, because we don’t own any. Why don’t we own any, because the return on investment is usually too low for us. We are happy to take on more risk and in return have the chance of a higher reward. We have time on our hands, so let’s use that. That is why we are primarily invested into dividend stocks, index funds and real estate.

But what is a bond? The picture below gives a nice simple overview of the difference between a bond and a loan.

Sustainable Loans - Bonds vs Loans

Sustainable Loans – Bonds vs Loans

Reading the prospectus of the financial product we were invested in, it appears that it is transferable (with limits), but it won’t be traded on any financial market. In short, it looks to be more like a loan than a real bond. For those interested, there are various sustainable bonds out there in the market. The post give you some examples.

Sustainable Investment Loans/Bonds

All this talk about FIRE and Investment Ethics a couple weeks ago, and than this came by (Karma anyone?). Our energy provider is one of the more sustainable in the Netherlands, and they regularly come up with sustainable projects to invest in. If we can make a (small) environmental difference and invest some money at the same time, we might be interested! It all depends on the project specifics and the projected return on investment.

A couple of weeks ago we purchased 8 “wind” participations  (€55 each) with our energy provider. They will be using the proceeds to construct a new wind turbine. These wind participations will “generate” a minimum guaranteed 250kWh each for the next 5 year. The power production is taken from our usage and if we use less then we get the difference paid out. Return on investment is up to about 5% per year on average, not too bad eh? And we now know that every kWh we use will be sustainably produced. Nice win-win here.

Anyhow, what about that other investment we were looking at? This sustainable energy project involved the placement of close to 9.000 solar panels on the top of the Nissan production facility at the Port of Amsterdam. For this investment, they needed money. Part of this money is collected via a crowdfunding platform dedicated to sustainable energy projects. The remainder is financed by a “green projects” funds from a Dutch Bank (ASN Bank for those interested).

Sustainable Loans - Solar Panels

Sustainable Loans – Solar Panels
Source: REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

We looked that terms, the return on investment and decided to invest a total of €1.000 into this project for the next 15 years. Making this the first sustainable loan (not bond!) we own (or the second? technically the earlier mentioned wind participations are a loan too).

Return on Investment

Now, because this is an investment into solar power, the return on investment will fluctuate. This is the result of environmental factors (power production) and economic factors (electricity price, system performance/maintenance). Based on the provided summary and prospectus this is what we can expect (we get a “bonus rate” because we are also a client of the energy provider associated with this project).

Sustainable Loans - Return on Investment

Sustainable Loans – Return on Investment

In short, is the electricity price stays about the same at round €0.058 per kWh (the core energy price before taxes) and we have an average amount of sunshine, we should get about 4.2% over a 15 year period. That’s not bad actually. “Worst case” (low sunshine hours and low energy price) we still make 3.4%. For a sustainable project, this is pretty good! Most sustainable projects make a whole lot less (there are a few notable exceptions).

However, there are more risks, like default of the main user (Nissan) or solar operator, storm of fire damage, equipment malfunction, etc. All of this will result in risks to the project, and in lesser amount to you as the loan provider. Insurance is included for the project, but I could not quickly find it production losses are included here as well. As with ANY investment, there are risks.

Process and Maturity

What are the next steps. Well the crowdfunding project raised over €0.5M within a couple of days. That’s impressive! We also already transferred the funds. The plan for the future is as follows.

Sustainable Loans - Time Sequence

Sustainable Loans – Time Sequence

In short, the construction of the solar project will commence on February 2018 (funds will formally be transferred too). First power production is scheduled for late April 2018. The first (combined) interest payment is scheduled for July 21, 2019. Then we get paid every year around February 22 and we receive the original deposit back in early 2033.

 

Do you own bonds (the real deal!)? Or do you also have invested some of your money into sustainable projects? How well is that going?

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The journey to FIRE is horrible, no really! All the choices, things you have to discover and find out. it takes an enormous amount of time and what do you get in return, money. Lovely….

The Journey to FIRE is Horrible

I remember it as if it was yesterday, the day I discovered the principles of FIRE. Thank you ERE, and that guy with a Mustache, for making my life overly complicated and difficult. Ever since that one day in the summer of 2014 our lives have revolved around the journey to FIRE, and it has been a emotional disaster.

The journey to FIRE is horrible - Horrible Day

The journey to FIRE is horrible – Horrible Day
Source: https://dreamersjourneytolife.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/day-282-a-hell-of-a-day/

Research

When you first find one of those so-called FIRE blogs your brain starts to process this new information. In most cases one of these light bulbs turns on and you become enlightened, whatever that might be. Suddenly you find yourself craving for more of these blogs, and books, and podcasts, heck even meeting up with others who have the same interest. It’s all just such a waste of time, time you could be spending on spending money! Or watching TV or any other way of not making yourself useful. Think of all the reductions in wasting time, it’s horrible.

Savings

Apparently the major thing you need to do on the road to FIRE is spent as little as possible. Something to do with a high savings rate and the ability to shorten this horrible journey. OK, so no more sports cars, exotic all-inclusive 5 star holidays and no new fancy label cloths. Where’s the fun in that? You only live once! Why on earth do you want more money? An empty wallet is just so much less confusing, no opportunities to spend money at all! Now that is a stress free life if you’d ask me.

The journey to FIRE is horrible - AAAAHHHH

The journey to FIRE is horrible – AAAAHHHH

Investments

Since you suddenly have money to spare, there seems to be this thing about making money with money. Right, as if money can duplicate itself? Ever seen mating euros or dollars? Thought so.

But you start looking at investments anyways (despite knowing better), and then you find out that there are so many! First there are these things called stocks, that seem to just go up over time, albeit with the occasional hiccup. But there are so many, it’s like trying to figure out which candy is the best? Just buy the bloody candy store!

Then there are those wooden and concrete boxes that you live in. There are entire movements of people spending money on these and then not live in them? What’s the point? No, they let other people live in those boxes, who even pay for this! Strange world.

Then there are those companies that pay you money regularly, just for being an owner of the place. Shouldn’t they just spend that money on Christmas bonuses for their worker bees? But no, that would make too much sense, wouldn’t it.

Just the sheer volume of options gives me stress. Heck, Options give me stress. Investments, they are really bad for you health, seriously!

Personal Development

Once you have finally overcome the many doses of Prozac and other stress mitigating drugs, there is this thing called personal development. For Pete’s sake, does this FIRE journey never end? Now I suddenly have to figure out what I’m going to do with all this money, sorry, I mean time. Time is money, so money must mean time? I’m confused.

Ok, so you suddenly have time. Since you apparently are no longer allowed to waste time (or was it money?),  you have to think of ways to make  yourself useful. Right, so I’m finally of the Prozac and I again get too many options what to do with my life. This thing just never ends, does it? It’s just one long and tiring emotional rollercoaster, without seatbelts and many loops. The journey to FIRE is horrible, period! Don’t recommend doing any of this nonsense.

 

End Rant 😉

 

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This is a bit of a bonus post and something that I don’t do often. Actually, I’ve never done this before! Today a quick book review: financial freedom, conversations with people how don’t have to work anymore.

Book Review: Financial Freedom

For those people who know me, I don’t read books. I’m too much a millennial with focusing issues. I can read articles and short pieces (blog posts included), but I get bored when I read a book. I don’t seem to be able to sit still long enough to focus. Going to University was a challenge from this perspective :-).

So to be brutally honest, I did not completely read this book either, but I did read several of the chapters and scanned through most of the rest (all 122 pages of it).

Book Review - Financial Freedom

Book Review – Financial Freedom: conversations with people who don’t have to work anymore

The book consists of two “parts”. The first half is related to some of the practical and emotional aspects of FIRE. Including the more philosophical questions of the drivers behind FIRE. It’s definitely NOT a self-help book in “how to get invest to get to FIRE”. However, it does provide the basics in terms of savings and investing.

The second part of the book is showcasing several different interviews with people who are FIRE. How they got there, why they did it and how they are doing. Due to the variety it’s really quite interesting. I’ve actually enjoyed this part of the book the most. It’s been inspiring and given some nice insights into others that are bit ahead of us in terms of this “I don’t need to work anymore” thing.

Where and how much?

More details about the author (Gisela Enders) and the book can be found here:

http://www.financial-free.eu/?lang=en

On this page you can also find the link to where you can order the book. But please pay attention, the book should be available for the reduced price of €2.99 (regular price is €14.99) between November 24 – 26, 2017.

The book was translated into English for free and all the proceeds of the English version of the book will be donated to a children’s home in Romania. That’s a clear win-win if you ask me!

 

Full disclaimer: I don’t get AHY money or other rewards/reimbursements for this and nor do I want any. This really just has been a “pay if forward” effort.

 

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How do Ethics and FIRE mingle? This appears to be a topic that a lot of people struggle with, at least that is the feedback that we received after the last Meetup in Eindhoven. For the next meet up we will likely add a discussion on this topic. This development also caused us to rethink various question(s). What do we think and why? How does it affect our investment decisions? Today we look at Part 2.

Ethics and FIRE

For sake of clarity I’d split the Ethics and FIRE discussion into two main components:

  • Ethics of FIRE itself (i.e. “living off the system”, while paying relatively little taxes and social security premiums), as discussed earlier this week; and,
  • Investment ethics (e.g. investment in oil, weapons, energy, real estate, cigarettes, etc.).

Today I’ll focus on the second part: Ethics of Investments.

The Ethics of Investments

This one is bound to really stir up some opinions 🙂 Please don’t hold back! Let’s have a look at a few of the industries/sectors and discuss, shall we?

Cigarettes

Stating the obvious here: smoking is really bad for you, period. But it is one’s own decision to start smoking, so is to quit smoking. It’s a personal responsibility. From a health perspective I don’t mind that it is discouraged via taxation. Heck, if it was me the taxes would go way up, or better abolish smoking by law. There are simply no positives about smoking.

Ethics of Investments - Cigarettes

Ethics of Investments – Cigarettes

That being said, investing in cigarette companies appears to be very lucrative. Companies such as Phillip Morris have proved to be a very good investment decision over the past decades. They are great dividend stocks. But would buying it be unethical? Would you stimulate smoking by owning shares in a company that produces cigarettes? I personally don’t believe so. Yet we don’t invest into this sector either. I don’t want my money to facilitate a habit that is so disgusting. Perhaps we are loosing some ROI and diversification in the process, but we are OK with this.

Weapons

I’m going to group small guns and all the way to army weapon systems into one sector here for sake of convenience. Contrary to cigarettes (where you make the choice), it’s the government that has the biggest impact on this industry (or lack thereof due to influential lobbying).

Ethics of Investments - Weapons

Ethics of Investments – Weapons

It’s an industry that is driven only in a small part by private consumers, the majority of the buyers are governments (especially on the “commercial” side of things). In short, my wallet does have little to no impact on this sector (but my voting rights may!).

This is also why we don’t own any shares in companies that produce weapons. It’s the only way to have an impact (if any). Again, we will lack some diversification and yield as a result. But that is a trade-off that we happily live with. At least our money is not used to destroy each other.

Energy

Again, for sake of convenience, I’m going to combine both oil & gas and utility companies together. Both are sectors that concern energy production, distribution and usage. Whether this be for your car, your holiday flights or the heating of your house.

As noted earlier, I don’t think I have much impact as an investor. But I do have a “major” impact as a consumer. When I use less fuel, electricity or gas, I directly affect the core business of these companies. If I actively purchase “green” energy, companies will see new business opportunities and modify their business models to capture this “new” market. Prices go down and we have a global win-win.

Ethics and Investments - Oil & Gas

Ethics and Investments – Oil & Gas Source: http://www.ampcapital.com.au/site-assets/articles/market-watch/2014/august/natural-gas-extraction-whats-the-fracking-problem

Furthermore, these companies operate under environmental licenses (or lack thereof) issued by governments. So if I really want to have an impact, my voting should do the trick. By voting green parties you could have some impact on legislation, which in return could affect how these companies do their business.

Mining

For mining companies the same applies as for the Energy sector. By consuming less “stuff”, you need fewer resources, this less demand on products thus fewer unethical practices. You vote with you wallet! Same as with the energy industry, governments and legislation (and verifying that legislation is followed!) also have a direct major impact. If you want change, you have to vote.

Sure, there is something to be said that you don’t wan to support companies that are knowingly not adhering to environmental and ethical standards and policies. Some of this misconduct finds it’s way out in the open via the main stream media. In that case you can make the decision not to invest into that specific company.

In short, we invest in the mining (and energy and utility) sectors, we have no (major) ethical issues with it as we do try to affect their business model via different routes. We do try to select companies that have a reasonable track record from an environmental stand point.

Ethics and Investments - Oilsands Mining

Ethics and Investments – Oilsands Mining

Airlines

We actually own shares in airlines. It was part of a diversification strategy to include this sector as well. However, the airline industry is one of the most heavily subsidized industries on the planet (after the agricultural sector). Which makes sense once you realize that a flight within Europe can be cheaper than driving with your car. With “normal” economics that should never be possible. This is obviously driving major growth in this sector (and associated sectors like tourism and trade). The downside is a significant environmental impact, considering flying is the most polluting form of transport.

Ethics and Investments - Airlines

Ethics and Investments – Airlines
Source: https://www.westjet.com/en-ca/about-us/fleet/767-aircraft

Is it therefore unethical to invest into this industry? In my opinion it is not. Ultimately the responsibility of whether to fly lies with you. You might be able to drive, bus, train, boat, cycle or even walk to your holiday destination. It might not go as fast, but it is often a possibility (notable exception is if you need to cross the big ponds, a boat will take a while). Same with business meetings, a telecon might work just as well.

If the government starts to get real on conservation and sustainability, the subsidies will be reduced and the sector might become less profitable. By that time we will have moved away from this investment sector and deploy the cash elsewhere. In the mean time, we try to limit our travel by air and offset some of the damage where possible.

Real Estate

Ethics of Investment - Real Estate

Ethics of Investment – Real Estate

As you are likely aware we are real estate investors. Is this ethical? I would say yes, assuming you are sticking to applicable laws and regulations. In fact we are providing housing solutions to people that need a temporary place to live (before buying their own or moving in with someone else).

We do make a good profit at the end of the day on these investments. But we also accept the risk and obligations that come with this investment form. The latter is the reason why we also think this is an ethical investment, it’s not a free for all. It’s also a voluntary decision by the tenant to sign the binding contract to use your (living/working) space.

Agricultural

There are obviously many more industries that have ethical aspects to it. The agricultural sector also springs to mind, specifically the livestock production. When ranking environmentally damaging industries, this one comes in close to the top. Especially when combining the effects of methane, CO2, air & water & soil pollution, antibiotics and animal cruelty.

But as mentioned before, we as consumers have the biggest impact. Just eat less or no meat and you will be doing yourself and mother nature a big favor. But is investing in this industry unethical? I would again say no, but there is one company we will never invest in, which is Monsanto. Their way of lobbying and doing business (treatment of (organic) farmers) is just too unethical for my taste.

Ethics and Investments - Lifestock Agriculture

Ethics and Investments – Life stock Agriculture
Source: https://summitcountyvoice.com/2011/07/20/study-pinpoints-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-livestock/

Pharmaceutical/Medical

Another interesting sector is the pharmaceutical industry (in combination with the medical profession). I would love to make it my personal mission to spend little to no money here by living healthy. There are obviously many products they provide that are either convenient (think painkillers, cold medication, etc.) or very useful (cancer treatments, medical equipment, vaccinations, etc.).

However, the pharmaceutical lobby is very powerful and has a major impact on government politics (and doctors!). They are very good at selling their products. To be brutally honest, they don’t benefit from a healthy population! It’s actually best for them to just have you be slightly ill (read chronically ill) so they can keep selling your medication (think diabetes type 2, high blood pressure, blood thinners, cholesterol lowering, etc.). Simple fact is that you can get avoid or eliminate most of these with dietary changes (it takes an hour, but it’s worth watching this video).

It’s not uncommon for the pharmaceutical industry to produce research (highly recommend watching this video, very good) that confirms the “need” for their products. This is obviously far from ethical behavior! Unfortunately, the only way to control this industry is by government regulation, which is nearly non-existing due to strong lobbying. A catch 22….

Discussion and Conclusions

As mentioned in the previous post, ethics will mean a different thing to everyone, which makes for interesting discussions and decisions. Same as “personal” finance, ethics is very much personal too. Ultimately you have to do what feels right to you. That being said, it might not be such a bad thing to also look at how your decisions impact others, directly and indirectly.

I believe it is the governments responsibility to limit sectors that have a negative impact on humanity and stimulate sectors that have a positive impact. I also believe that we as consumers can have a far larger impact with our wallets than with our investments. By not buying certain products, or buying less of them, we affect the business models of many companies. Thereby we stimulate change in certain sectors.

That being said, you as a shareholder have “some” impact on a company. You have voting rights. But considering most people and institutions invest to make money, very few will use their right to make businesses noticeably more sustainable or force them to change their core business model. But it does occasionally happen (think Shell).

Personally, I rather keep voting with my wallet and change our investment strategy depending on how businesses are doing, rather than what they are doing (with a few notable exceptions). It is also key to make sure your investments make good yields or capital gains, especially is you want to become and remain FI. Finding the right investments that combine this trait, but still adhere to your ethics can be a challenge indeed.

 

What’s your strategy to combine ethics with investing?

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How do Ethics and FIRE mingle? This appears to be a topic that a lot of people struggle with, at least that is the feedback that we received after the last Meetup in Eindhoven. For the next meet up we will likely add a discussion on this topic. This development also caused us to rethink various question(s). What do we think and why? How does it affect our investment decisions? This poat could easily turninto an PhD thesis, so I’m going to try to keep it limited 🙂 Or better, a two post series! Today we start with part 1, will do part 2 later this week.

Ethics and FIRE

For sake of clarity I’m going to split the Ethics and FIRE discussion into two main components:

  • Ethics of FIRE itself (i.e. “living off the system”, while paying relatively little taxes and social security premiums); and,
  • Investment ethics (e.g. investment in oil, weapons, energy, real estate, cigarettes, etc.).

Today we look at Part 1: Ethics and FIRE.

The Ethics of FIRE

I have mentioned once to a colleague that I was planning to become Financially Independent and Retire Early (FIRE). Her first response was that it was unethical because I would not longer pay any taxes (funny note, most people first ask “how” to become FIRE).

Now, for the Netherlands this is far from true, as we are taxed on an assumed ROI of our wealth (the latter is defined as “assets minus liabilities” in tax Box 3). It is however true that we will be paying a lot less taxes and no more social security premiums when we stop working when we are FI. Obviously, we will continue paying taxes on our properties and fees for local water management and for garbage removal.

However, we recon that our overall tax burden (including social premiums) would drop by about a factor 7-8 once we are FIRE-d. But we will still be using public roads, the medical system, police and fire services, and perhaps even qualify for certain benefits and/or subsidies (albeit very few).

Taxation

Taxation

Ethics Discussion

This begs the question is this ethical? Paying less into the system, but still using it (both directly and indirectly). From a pure social perspective, it is not. However, we would have a lot of time to volunteer (and will likely do so). Albeit this does not directly mean anything in financial terms for the government. It does have a positive social and perhaps even economic impact. Would it offset the loss in taxes, I’m not sure, but it does make me feel better.

Does it feel selfish to FIRE? To a degree is does. Is it going to stop us, eh, nope. By the time we reach FIRE we would have worked about 40-50% of our “normal” working life. Due to our above average education and associated income, we pay well above average amounts of taxes. Does this make it right, probably not, but it does make it feel more acceptable.

Plus, we will continue to pay taxes, as mentioned earlier, on our investments. This amount will likely be more than some people pay with little to no income (ignoring people on benefits here too). There is the caveat that we are not contributing to the social system (we would not pay social premiums when FIRE), but are not allowed to use the system either (due to our wealth), with the exception of old age security (AOW) and the medical system.

Conclusions

Ethics will mean a different thing to everyone, which makes for interesting discussions and decisions. Same as “personal” finance, ethics is very much personal too. Ultimately you have to do what feels right to you. That being said, it might not be such a bad thing to also look at how your decisions impact others, directly and indirectly.

Is striving and becoming FIRE ethical? Depending on your opinions, country where you live, the local tax system and what you are going to be doing once you are FI, the answer may be different. There certainly is a selfish component to becoming FI and RE, but to say it is unethical is a bit much for my taste. As long as you stick to the rules of the system, “legally” there is nothing “wrong” with becoming FIRE.

 

What’s your strategy to combine ethics and FIRE?

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A recent post by Divnomics about her job switch got me thinking, how is the FIRE journey affecting my job? Vice versa it is quite good, the job is definitely helping the journey to FIRE! But the FIRE journey has really affected how I value my job and my motivation for one. Todays post is then also about the FIRE Journey and the Job.

FIRE Journey and the Job

Divnomics notes in her post that she felt no longer challenge in her job, which meant to her the she’s not growing in her position. The best solution would be to jump ship and swim to a new one. This she has been able to do, congrats!

The problem with me is that I didn’t particularly like my jobs I’ve been having in the past few years. Make that the last 4-5 years actually. The problem started in 2012 when I had landed a dream job and enjoyed that for about a year. The problem with that job was that it had an expiry date. Once completed I had to return to doing things I was good at, but could no longer find satisfaction at.

The 5-year plan - Work

FIRE Journey and the Job
Source: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/should-i-work-free-well-duh-martin-aleta-curry

Job Switches

What I look for in a job is the ability to have an impact, the ability to control how things are being executed. Despite promises this never materialized in the past years. I therefore switched jobs about 3 times since that pinnacle year and position, unfortunately never able to find something similar. The last job switch was into a new field of expertise, which was nice, but it starting to loose it’s appeal too. I’m bored quickly, annoying habit really.

Fortunately Mrs. CF is still liking her work, and would not mind doing it a bit longer. This really helps in the form of having some financial/emotional stability in the household. It also provides the opportunity to do new things, which are still in the works but delayed until we sort out our investments first. For this I still need a job…..sigh.

Not really liking your job is a problem, it actually caused (amongst others) our search for freedom and triggered the journey to FIRE. But it also affects your motivation and work ethics…..

Work Ethics

To be brutally honest, my current work ethics are horrible. I get my job done and do so within the required deadlines, but I cringe at the level of quality I generate and the energy I put into my work. Strangely enough it appears to be sufficient as I just got offered an contract extension! Apparently I have mastered the 80-20 rule, as I seem to be able to get “80%” of my work done (which is valued at 100%) in “20%” of the time. This seems to do the trick for now.

However, I don’t like that I’m not motived and not performing at the top of my abilities, it feels wrong. It feels like I don’t deserve the massive paycheck I get every 4 weeks. I don’t mind having to work a few more years until we reach FIRE, but I would like to do so with a sense of satisfaction. Just not sure how I will be able to do so.

Perhaps, as noted in the 5 year plan, I should pull the plug as quickly as I can. The problem is the financing for new Real Estate opportunities. For this I do need my current job just a little while longer. It really is a catch 22 to which I don’t seem to be able to find the correct answer (read find the right opportunity). Until I do, I’ve decided to keep the job, slaving my time away and thinking about the next holiday.

Are you back?

No, not quite, the above has been bothering me and on a date night earlier this week we have extensively discussed this topic. Just needed to write this down to set my mind straight. By the way, I forgot how expensive going to dinner is in the Netherlands. We went to a decent restaurant for date night (first time in about 3 years!) and walked out with our bellies full and being €95 lighter. So much for being frugal 😉 Strangely though, it was really worth it! We had a great time and very good discussions.

However, I have not done any financial reconciliations, tracking of dividend or rental income. Not in detail anyways. We are, as always, also still looking at new Real Estate and hope to know more by late next week. Updates are definitely to come, just not sure when.

How about you, how does the interface between FIRE and jobs affect you?

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Birthday Gifts

Today Cheesy Finance is 731 days old, or put simply, we are celebrating our 2 year blogiversary! Lots has happened in the last year(s) and it certainly has been an rewarding journey so far, but….

731 Days Old

What did we do in those 731 Days? Here is a quick review of what happened in the past 2 years:

  • Total of 167 posts…..excluding this one. Wow, that’s a lot.
  • Total of 2530+ comments (about half are ours, well mine….)
  • 2015 Total page views : 6.963
  • 2016 Total page views : 133.582
  • 2017 YTD page views : 198.000+
  • Total page views over the two years: 338.500+
  • 2015 Unique visitors: 762
  • 2016 Unique visitors: 14.957
  • 2017 YTD Unique visitors: 21.500+
  • Lots of hours spent behind a screen and keyboard!
  • We got a twitter account…..boy that’s addictive.

More importantly than all the numbers and stats, we made some great friends in real life through the blog. Big shout out here to Amber Tree Leaves, Divnomics, Geldnerd and many more! Looking forward to seeing many of you again in November!

P.s. we are now full and cannot accept any more registrations (hit the max allowable number of people for the venue), but will also make a waiting list of another 2-3 just in case. If you are interested, let me know.

Two Year Blogiversary

Two Year Blogiversary
Source: http://ourfamiliesuntoldstories.com/tag/blogiversary/

The Future?

We are 731 days old, now what? Good question, we actually had that discussion earlier this week, and the jury is not out on this topic. On one side this blog does provide the ability to sort our thoughts and get some feedback. On the other end, it’s taking up an enormous amount of time! Time that I could also spend on other hobbies or tasks around the house.

Blogging is fun, but is it worth it? In the beginning it certainly was, but after a while it starts to become “repetitive”, it is starting to feel “forced” and most of the “critical” posts have been made. With critical I’m referring to topics that are of importance to us in our journey to FIRE. It’s likely that at some point we have to update a couple of things, due to tax code changes and changes in the portfolio. So, fortunately, there is still more to explore and write about!

A Slow Down?

That being said, I’m a bit tired of the blog at the moment. Besides, I’ve actually developed some RSI as a result of intensive database use at work in combination with trying to keep up with the blog, commenting and research. This is not a good development obviously! If I don’t do something drastically about this, it’s going to negatively affect my health in the long run. Don’t want that.

Holiday Ostrich Method

Holiday Ostrich Method

I’ve therefore decided to take one month of “leave” from both the blog, commenting on other blogs and our twitter account. Well, perhaps there might be the occasional cycling and beer picture on Twitter….. I’m planning to combine this with an overall (social) media “diet” for the coming 30 days. Kind of done with all the negativity in the world right now, so I’m doing the ostrich approach :-)This also works well in combination with our German holiday in the last week of September! Ok, there might potentially be some twitter holiday photo’s too.

We will be back mid-late October with the usual updates and perhaps more information about the Meetup in Eindhoven in November! For now, goodbye and keep hammering away at your goals!

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Somewhat inspired by Mr. 1500 gratitude Friday, todays post is centered around “Thank You”. We have a lot to be grateful about, and it is time to express some of that gratitude.

Life is Good

Life is treating us very nicely, we are happy, healthy and on our way to lots of free time. But before we get there we have to work our butts off. A good life does not come easy, well the financial and healthy part at least. The rest of life can come quite easy as long as you are able to be happy with the little things in life. Mrs. CF being the wise one in the household figured this out a long time ago. I needed to be nudged into the right direction. But for that we have the internet!

Thank You

Thank You
Source: http://erhartyorktwpfire.com/thank-you-2/

FIRE

The gratitude for FIRE started back in the summer of 2013, when Mrs. CF showed me an article on MoneySense about Jacob Lund Fisker. Jacob runs the blog http://earlyretirementextreme.com/and extreme it is. Jacob managed to live on just $7.000 a year. What per year? Yes, $7k per year! That was a bit of an eye opener and gave me some insight on how (extremely) frugal you have to be to make this happen. In return of this extreme frugality you get time and freedom, which is what I really wanted at that moment in time. Albeit life was good, the job satisfaction was not.

For most people (including us) this ERE lifestyle is a bit too much. In some countries this $7K figures is not even possible due to cost of living and mandatory health insurance. Then again, you can always move! But it was the general FIRE philosophy, and living with less, that’s the important concept. The rest is adaptation and perseverance. Thank you Jacob!

Via Jacob I ended up at the famous Mr. Money Mustache, but also Go Curry Cracker and Root of Good. Slowly I started to see how my (and thereby our) life could be directed in a “better” direction. Both financially and personally/emotionally, life was already good, but it was bound to get a whole lot better. Thank you Pete, Jeremy and Justin!

Fun

FIRE and fun are two topics that can be easily mixed, but only few are really good at putting this down on “paper”. My personal preference is Mr. 1500. So thank you Carl for the fun and laughs of the last few years. You have been really good at mixing FIRE with soiled underwear from laughing hard. I certainly hope there are many more years to come!

Freedom Through Dividends

As we initially were not sure what our preferred investment method was, we started looking at many options. However, we eventually ended up with a preference for both Dividend Growth Investing and Real Estate. The Real Estate we primarily figured out ourselves, but for DGI we were definitely inspired by others.

So a special thanks goes out to Jason Fieber (former Dividend Mantra, now Mr Free at 33), The Diplomats (Bert and Lanny) and Dividend Growth Investor. We are both very grateful for the inspiration, education and lessons learned. We have now build a nice DGI portfolio, which is far from perfect, but trending in the right direction thanks to you.

You!

Our final gratitude goes out to you our readers. In the almost 2 years “we” are blogging now, we have received lots of feedback and were able to meet several of you in person. This has been very rewarding and a lot of fun! We hope that we can continue doing this for a very long time.

Thank you!

 

How about you, who get’s your gratefulness for getting you to go in the right direction?

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The gift conundrum, it happens every year at least a dozen of times. Both for gifts received and gift to be given. Here is what we do, let us know how your system works!

The Gift Conundrum

Mr. CF celebrated his birthday last week, well not really “celebrated”, but it was my birthday. I received a couple of gifts too, one was in the form of beer the other in the form of cash. A liquid gift is always nice and I have no issues with those. It’s a consumable, does not take up much space and it’s hard to go wrong.

The cash gift this year came from my parents and my grandma. Grandma is not that mobile anymore, so I’ve been getting cash for decades now. It’s always welcome and I usually buy something useful with it. Next, I go and visit grandma and show her what I’ve gotten for the money. She’s always happy with the visit and It’s fun for us to visit her too, double win here!

My mom also called to ask if there was anything I wanted, the answer was “nothing really, well maybe….”. Actually I’m in need of some new cycling gear (helmet and shorts, the current ones are too old/worn). But considering I had not done my research yet on what I want, I just got some cash to go and get what I needed. It’s been going like this for years too. Getting (cash to buy) practical gifts is great actually.

Getting random “stuff” not so much (still have a unopened gift from last year sitting in the garage, no use for it….). If we do celebrate a B-day, we usually ask friends/family to bring themselves, and no gifts. It’s slowly getting better! But some are still stubborn.

The gift conundrum - Gift Packages

The gift conundrum – Gift Packages
Source: https://wallpaperscraft.com/download/gifts_boxes_set_bright_86637/5655×3621

Savings Rate

On the note of cash gifts, how to deal with this “income”? So far we have left it out of the budget and treated it as a non-cash gift. The reason is that if we would add the cash to the budget, and spend it all, this would draw down the overall savings rate.

On the other hand, if you add the cash to income and would not spend the money but invest. This could artificially increase your savings rate. Again, this is not really an appropriate way to deal with this in our minds.

Funnily enough, in both scenarios the money does aid your path to FIRE. In the first case because you don’t have to spend the money yourself from your income on the gear/materials/products you “need” (“wants” are a different story). This will leave more money for investing, as would the second option to directly invest the money. Either way, it will take a long time before you can buy this sub at $15M:

The gift conundrum - Expensive Gifts

The gift conundrum – Expensive Gifts: $15M sub
Source: http://www.luxury4play.com/boats/top-5-of-the-coolest-and-most-expensive-water-based-gifts-on-the-market-20151209/

 

Gifts to be given

We are trying hard to not give “stuff” unless specifically asked for. We try to give experiences where we can, especially for kids. For them we try to take them on a day of fun to a zoo, play area, museum or other activity. For adult birthdays we usually show up without a gift, or just a bottle of wine or case/six-pack of beer/book. With parents we usually plan an outing, such as a a restaurant visit. Sometimes we do this in combination with an activity such as bowling, cycling, theatre performance, out-door activity or similar.

It really depends on who’s birthday it is, what their attitude is around money and time available. However, we are starting to see that more and more people appreciate you just coming over for the fun, even without bringing gifts. There is still hope 😉

 

How do you deal with gifts and your savings rate? Do you invest cash gifts? How about gifts you give?

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Holiday on FIRE

When I write this on post (last Tuesday), we just came back from a short weekend family holiday. As a yearly thing we are invited by the in-laws for a long weekend in a chalet vacation park (they even pay for it!). On of these CenterParcs/Landal Greenparks places with a big tropical swimming pool and assorted other play things. It was great fun and I’m (again) in need of another holiday due to the short nights, FIRE pit evenings and booze. In short, we has a Holiday on FIRE!

Holiday on FIRE

The FIRE theme came back many times during this short holiday, in more ways then one. First and foremost it was financially. Because the in-laws paid for most of it, it turned out into a very frugal (cheap?) weekend. We only had to pay for the fuel to get there, some (random) groceries and a couple of drinks in the local café/bar/pool. We had brought food for most of the breakfasts, lunches and dinners (and so did most of the family).

We only went out to a restaurant once to get food, and that was a pancake restaurant (for the kids obviously, had a massive play area both indoors and outdoors). As you are aware, a pancake restaurant is not very expensive either. We were supposed to pay for our own food, but the in-laws were so happy with the fun night, they paid the bill (again)! That being said, we are going to take them out for a day of fun to “repay” some of the expense they have made for us. This is the least we could do (they won’t accept any money from us to cover expenses).

The good thing about doing a weekend out in one of these parks is that you can keep the costs down. We had received vouchers for early bookings, so kids had (besides the pool/petting zoo/play areas) free activities. They really loved it! You can also cook yourself (which we did) and limit costs this way too. The trick is to plan ahead and bring much of your own stuff, the grocery store in the park is not a frugal place to shop….

FIRE at the Fire Pit

On the evenings that we had put al the kids to bed (which was not easy some times, they were having loads of fun and too much sugar), we had time to drink a beer and relax. We obviously did this at the available fire pit! We had the kids help us with finding some extra fire wood in the local area (a very frugal exercise!). But when the adults started to feel like they were 12 year olds, entire trees ended up in the fire pit too. It might have had something to do with the beer……

Holiday on FIRE with Beer

Holiday on FIRE with Beer

https://twitter.com/CheesyFinance/status/896470856259555329

 

Once at the fire pit, the topic fire was brought up. But not the FIRE was are used to finances are hardly discussed during these short holidays. Money really is still a taboo topic. Most of our (in-law) family are aware of what we try to do, and we try to help them out with financial/frugal recommendations. But this still is a hard nut to crack! Some are a bit susceptible to the idea, most live according to the YOLO principle (“you only live once”). We are however finding that they do confide in us more, which is a great trend. They also value our opinion about (handling) money, which is also very rewarding. Maybe there is still some hope 🙂

Fire at the Fire Pit

Most of the talk around fire was about the actual fire and songs around fire. Out came the phones and (thanks to WIFI) we had fun listening to various songs about fire, while watching fire. But where we started out OK, it quickly got out of hand and very tacky! A short selection in increasingly tackier order…..

 

How do you mix FIRE and a (short) holiday? How was your latest (short) holiday, where you also tired when you came home. In dire need of another holiday?

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Mrs. CF and I watch a lot of documentaries. As a lazy person it’s a great way to learn new things and get exposed to different viewpoints on certain topics. We have been watching the documentary “Requiem for the American Dream“, which explains “how the system works”,  and it is not pretty! You should be able to find this documentary on Netflix (at least in the Netherlands you can). We can highly recommend watching it. We like it so much that it currently sits on top of our list of best ever documentaries.

Requiem for the American Dream

If you have not watched this documentary, do so without knowing or looking up who Noam Chomsky is. Try to have a completely unbiased view and focus on the content in relation to FIRE. It should open your eyes and explain many phenomena and observations you may have already made. We actually watched it 3 times in the last half year or so, to actually have it all fall into place (despite it being dummied down into a documentary, you can also read the book). It’s a rather complex theory told by an intellectual, so it takes time to process. Strangely enough we did not feel that it was boring at all, on the contrary, it was very enlightening.

Chomsky uses 10 principles to explain what is currently happening within our society and explains “how the system works”. Below is a short summary of these 10 principles. We have added in our thoughts on how this interacts with FIRE and the attitude required to become FI.

The italic texts is a copy from this post: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/noam-chomsky-wants-you-wake-american-dream. Personally think that Mr. David Swanson made a good summary here.

1. Reduce Democracy.

Chomsky finds this acted on by the very “founding fathers” of the United States, in the creation of the U.S. Senate, and in James Madison’s statement during debate over the U.S. Constitution that the new government would need to protect the wealthy from too much democracy. Chomsky finds the same theme in Aristotle but with Aristotle proposing to reduce inequality, while Madison proposed to reduce democracy. The burst of activism and democracy in the United States in the 1960s scared the protectors of wealth and privilege, and Chomsky admits that he did not anticipate the strength of the backlash through which we have been suffering since.

Most people will value democracy as it provides freedom, security and wealth to a bread section of the population (likely including me and you). But for a small and (very) wealthy portion of the population and for corporations, it generally hampers their ability to grow their wealth/profits. Democracy generally provides a distribution of wealth and a better quality of life, whereas a lack of democracy generally favors just a few. It is therefore no wonder that very wealthy individuals and corporations are systemically trying to reduce the democracy (even on a small/local scale).

As the FIRE crowd we are (happily/unknowingly?) surfing along with these changes. Simply by being invested in these corporations, and thereby indirectly also into these wealth individuals, by owning company shares and index funds.

2. Shape Ideology.

The Powell Memo from the corporate right, and the Trilateral Commission’s first ever report, called “The Crisis of Democracy,” are cited by Chomsky as roadmaps for the backlash. That report referred to an “excess of democracy,” the over engagement of young people with civic life, and the view that young people were just not receiving proper “indoctrination.” Well, there’s a problem that’s been fixed, huh?

If you have wealth, or a good market share as a company, you want to maintain this and increase it were possible (sounds familiar, right?). How much would you do to maintain your wealth? Apparently, both individuals and corporations will go far (to the point of being unethical) to maintain their wealth levels. Excess wealth is corrupting, but that should hardly be something new to you.

The trick here is to try to avoid the above noted “indoctrination”, which we as a FIRE crowd are relatively good at.

3. Redesign the Economy.

Since the 1970s the United States has been moved toward an ever larger role for financial institutions. By 2007 they “earned” 40% of corporate profits. Deregulation has produced wealth concentration and economic crashes, followed by anti-capitalist bailouts making for more wealth concentration. Offshore production has reduced workers’ pay. Alan Greenspan testified to Congress about the benefits of promoting “job insecurity” — something those Europeans in Michael Moore’s film don’t know about and might find it hard to appreciate.

To be clear, this is not a conspiracy theory rather a development generated by a desire to have more control over wealth and wealth generation. It’s a natural, albeit destructive, development in a system that revolves around money. Money makes money so ways to make (more) money will be exploited.

However, this leads to the (un)intended consequence that businesses take advantage of the average Joe/Jane. Without some government interference/control this will generally favor a few and negatively affect the majority. The next logical step for wealthy individuals and corporations is to also “control” the government. See also points 6 and 7.

4. Shift the Burden.

The American Dream in the 1950s and 60s was partly real. Both the rich and the poor got richer. Since then, we’ve seen the steady advance of what Chomsky calls the plutonomy and the precariat, that is the wealthy few who run the show and get all the new wealth, and the precarious proletariat. Back then, taxes were quite high on corporations, dividends, and wealth. Not anymore.

A reduction in corporate taxes and dividends is great news for share holders like you and me. We actually get better from it and will get to FI faster too! But realistically it is killing for a large portion of the population. Less taxes is less income for the government and thus less money for social programs like schooling, unemployment benefits, Medicare coverage, etc. See also the next point.

5. Attack Solidarity.

To go after Social Security and public education, Chomsky says, you have to drive the normal emotion of caring about others out of people’s heads. The U.S. of the 1950s was able to make college essentially free with the G.I. Bill and other public funding. Now a much wealthier United States is full of “serious” experts who claim that such a thing is impossible (and who must strictly avoid watching Michael Moore).

We are definitely becoming more individualistic in society, and I don’t believe that this is a good thing. I’ll leave out what the possible reasons might be, but the results are far from pretty. Whereas things like medical care and educations should be free to all in my mind (they are basic human rights). But also some social security for the less fortunate (which could also be you or me in a few years, life happens!).

There will be a bill to be paid for this by all of us (via taxes and/or direct payments). In a society revolving around money where people (and governments) are generally mismanaging their finances, this will became increasingly more difficult. Making sure you save up and have a financial buffer, like we do, (partially) shields you from some of these risks/developments.

6. Run the Regulators.

The 1970s saw enormous growth in lobbying. It is now routine for the interests being regulated to control the regulators, which makes things much easier on the regulated.

Lobbying is great for corporations and the agenda of few very wealthy individuals, and thus indirectly also for the majority of the FIRE crowd. But the interest of lobbying groups is definitely not for the common good! It’s also rarely based on facts or science, it’s based on (corporate) interests.

7. Engineer Elections. 

Thus we’ve seen the creation of corporate personhood, the equation of money with speech, and the lifting of all limits under Citizens United.

Look at the last few American elections, do I need to say more? This is not a democracy! This is a media spectacle without any real content orchestrated by two parties and their (wealthy/corporate) supporters and sponsors. How can the American people make an educated decision if they are only fed commercials and mud slinging? Life is not black or white, it’s grey. Compromise!

Considering compromising is not going to happen (as it is not in the interest of the supporters/sponsors), the democratic/governmental system is bound to fail (or at least being very inefficient).

8. Keep the Rabble in Line.

Here Chomsky focuses on attacks on organized labor, including the Taft Hartley Act, but one could imagine further expansions on the theme.

This is actually a very scary developments that labor rights are systematically removed. Good for cheap products and stuff, not so much for the majority of the people working in these industries. But, great way to control this section of the population and generate more profits for you and me.

9. Manufacture Consent.

Obsessive consumers are not born, they’re molded by advertising. The goal of directing people to superficial consumption as a means of keeping people in their place was explicit and has been reached. In a market economy, Chomsky says, informative advertisements would result in rational decisions. But actual advertisements provide no information and promote irrational choices. Here Chomsky is talking about, not just ads for automobiles and soap, but also election campaigns for candidates.

As the FIRE crowd we are painstakingly aware of this. We all know the tricks marketers pull to lure us to buy products (and sometimes even become debt slaves). Most of us have learned, to a certain degree, that you are actually happier with less stuff and frugal purchases. So we therefore buy less of it, which in return causes us to save more money that we invest to become (or maintain) FI. For some reason we collectively have been able to partially wrestle us from this grip of corporations. Feels good, right?

However, we still have much to learn, here is a great example: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-food-industry-wants-the-public-confused-about-nutrition/

10. Marginalize the Population.

This seems as much a result as a tactic, but it certainly has been achieved. What the public wants does not typically impact what the U.S. government does.

Think this is pretty clear, most people want good healthcare, schooling, well paid jobs, social benefits, etc.. But this is clearly not what most governments (and in particular that of the US) are actually doing for it’s citizens. However, governments are great at providing subsidies to large industries (think air traffic, transportation, agriculture, big oil, etc.) that in return benefit our shares, dividends and index funds once again.

Conclusion

You might think that the above is some random incoherent rambling, but if you watch the documentary things might sink into place. The inherent power by corporations and wealthy individuals is really influencing politics/governments (via fund raising and lobbying) and therefore general policy. This will in return make life more expensive and difficult for large potions of the population.

However, for people like you and my that are aspiring for FI, this is great news as our investments will do very well. But for society (and the environment) as a whole it is very detrimental and will certainly cause issues in the future. Despite being on the path to FIRE, we are still part of society and will be affected. This is important to keep in mind.

What I found most interesting is the fact that the FIRE community partially sees through the system and uses it to their own benefits. I’m just afraid that it might turn around at some point and bite us in the @$$.

 

What do you think? if you watched the documentary, what did you think about it? If you didn’t watch it (yet), do you recognize elements in this post in your situation or country? Curious to know your thoughts.

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Barn on FIRE

Meneer (Mr.) from the blog of www.meneerenmevrouw.com dropped me an email this weekend. He had read our 5-year plan and commented on the fun fact that he and the Mrs. had been considering some of the same ideas. What ideas you might ask: buying an detached house with a large plot of land (i.e. usually an old farm) to grow your own produce while perhaps also doing some (Air)B&B on the side for some extra income. This got me thinking, what about a FIRE barn? A what?

The FIRE Barn

The FIRE Barn
Source: http://huispromotie.nl/een-boerderij-verkopen/

The FIRE Barn

We have obviously been looking at old barns already and have found a couple that might even be interesting too. However, most are a bit too expensive for us right now, especially when you consider the costs for renovations and preparations for the vegetable yard/permaculture setup. We could sell some of the Real Estate, but would rather not due to the nice cash-flow it is currently generating. However, there is another option, what about doing it with likeminded people from the FIRE community? Yes, a FIRE Barn 😉

The Idea

The idea is really simple actually, you share financial and human resources to purchase, renovate and setup a barn and associated yard/garden. You share the joys and work to assure you get the maximum yield on your time, efforts and money. You can obviously also implement a system where you become completely self-sustainable (i.e. no utility connections) too. Think septic systems, solar power, geothermal heating system, heat exchangers, etc.

Subject to the amount of people that are joining in, and the size/space of the property, you have various options (here are just a few):

  • Small FIRE barn: two or three families/couples. Each a section of the house or barn. Communal yard with shared efforts to maintain.
  • Large FIRE barn: 3-5 families/couples. Still each with their own private areas. Communal yard with shared efforts, with perhaps some private sections.
  • Extra large farm house/barn/barn extension: up to 10 families. Likely private quarters but communal kitchen(s) and/or living areas. This really starts to look like communal living.

In all scenarios you share the expenses of the farmhouse/barn equally among the parties (i.e. taxes, maintenance, utilities, insurance, etc.). Guess you can setup a system where you “buy” or “sell” your share of the expense depending on the amount of work you do around the place. Subject to yard size/regulators, you might have the option to create camp sites/chalets/converted barn for some (Air)B&B income to limit overal expenses.

Lot’s of option here to benefit from each others knowledge, skill sets and the property.

Bed and Breakfast?

I hate and love B&B’s. On the one side they are a good way of creating some extra income, but on the other side they are far from passive income generators. You really have to work hard at keeping the place clean, booked and running. Also, social contacts are very important for most humans (including me), and having a B&B definitely provides that interface. I’ve actually done this for 3 weeks in the USA as a favor in exchange for free accommodation and meals. It was great fun, but I’m not sure how long it would have been an interesting activity.

Guess part-time B&B-ing is not a bad idea. Just run the B&B for the summer months and close it down for the winter ones (so you yourself can travel to warmer places). That being said, I have to admit that an farm/barn is a great place for a B&B. You usually have a lot of space and it’s not that difficult to make some guest spaces available for additional income. You also tend to get the easier going/older people at these types of locations who like nature, limiting the amount of work (read: cleaning, maintenance).

The jury is not out on this one…. albeit it is a good opportunity to cover some of the farmhouse/barn expenses for sure.

Permaculture

What is permaculture, why do we (think we) like it and why is it perfect for farmhouse/barn living? Permaculture, by wiki’s definition, is ” a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems”. Huh, what? It is pretty much optimizing the natural world as much as possible and efficiently using all the resources it provides.

The Fire Barn - Permaculture

The Fire Barn – Permaculture
Source: https://permacultureprinciples.com/

Why is the interesting? The primary reason most people like this is because it actually is the most sustainable way to live (ethical living). But for me as a lazy person (and an engineer) it is also nature engineering to the highest degree. If you setup your permaculture garden well (and this does take time), you can have a 4 hour work week with a massive amount of garden produce (and potentially much more). It would almost be passive income, and we like that!

If you do it right, It might even make you self sustainable from a food perspective and provide additional savings in energy usage. Now that is cool. Why is a barn such a good place, usually it comes with a large plot of land. Albeit you don’t need much, a larger plot does give you more options and a bigger harvest/larger variety in resources. It also does require more time and efforts to implement, obviously.

This post is way too short to list the amazing things one can do with permaculture. Can highly recommend reading up on it, if you can deal with the high hippy content.

Travel

Many people in the FIRE community would like to travel, perhaps even long-term when FI. In a FIRE barn setup this should be very much possible. Because you already would have a relatively low cost of living with a FIRE barn setup, leaving for the longer term is not a big problem. More so, you have the option to (Air)B&B out your livingspace and have your farm friends help out with the management. The extra income would likely cover your expense requirements, leaving you with no or very little fixed costs at home while you travel. This would obviously only work if you have a good system in place and mutual understandings of how life on the farm/barn is managed. Lot of opportunities here!

Negatives

Ok, perhaps you now think I have gone completely mad (you’d be right). You might think I want to start a sect (close) or have become a hippy (heck, even I don’t know in what “box” I fit anymore)? Not to fret, it’s not that bad (yet).

The FIRE Barn - Crowded

The FIRE Barn – Crowded
Source: https://nl.pinterest.com/pin/140033869636673393/

Perhaps I might change my mind, but I don’t see this happening anytime soon, for one main reason: privacy. I like my “me” time, which is already hard to get these days with the little one. But in this case it is also the fact that you can’t really get away from your fellow farm friends. Despite the fact that you would have your own space, and you are free to go as you please, you would still have quite a few people around all the time.

Considering all the benefits this setup might provide, it might still be a good idea. I would just have to find a way to get my privacy/peace-and-quite time. Not impossible at all, but I need to really want it (i.e. being self sustainable with added benefits) before I would put the (mental) effort into it.

There is a second component that is critical and that is that all members are on the same page with their thinking/attitude. This might be the most difficult part as every human is unique and has different options and ideas during different stages of life. While you might get along now, you might not in the future. This could cause issues and strife, which always ends up costing money one way or the other. Personally, I like to do my own thing and also make decisions on my own (read: making compromises with Mrs CF only). But then again, this is also a risk that you can manage!

 

So dear readers, what do you think? Would this be something you would even consider? Or are you to attached to your privacy like me? What other pros and cons do you see?

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Blog Traffic Update

I’ve been trying to understand website traffic as various blog traffic reports show different numbers. The following post was rather enlightening to be honest:

AWStats Vs Webalizer Vs Google Analytics Visitor Numbers

A short summary of this post:

  • Webalizer is way over estimating your traffic – it measures at your server and interprets log files
  • AWStats is slightly over estimating your traffic – it measures at your server and interprets log files
  • Google Analytics is slightly underestimating your traffic – it measures traffic via cookies

An the funny thing, all of them are wrong (albeit some more then others)! Nice…..

Blog Traffic Update

I don’t have Google analytics setup for this blog. I already think Google knows way too much of me and this blog, don’t need to give them even more information. Therefore I use the AWStats data to figure out if you guys like this blog (or not), and if so, which posts are the most appreciated. The amount of comments you guys leave give some indication, but I really cannot find a connection between comments and the type of post/content. If you can leave a comment on what you particularly like, and what not, that would be appreciated 😉

However, I made my life difficult and changed the site in early May to have a secure SSL (https://) connection. This screwed up all the pretty graphs in terms of blog traffic. Therefore the two graphs below:

  • Graph 1 show traffic via non-secured connections up to May 2017
  • Graph 2 shows traffic via a secured connection from May 2017

June 2017 was the first full month of having he secured connection up.

2017 Blog Traffic Update - Non-secured Traffics

2017 Blog Traffic Update – Non-secured Traffics

2017 Blog Traffic Update - Secured Traffic

2017 Blog Traffic Update – Secured Traffic

 

Based on the YTD summaries, see below for the blog traffic for non-secured and secured connections (up to July 10, 2017):

2017 Blog Traffic Update - Non-Secured Traffic Summary

2017 Blog Traffic Update – Non-Secured Traffic Summary

 

2017 Blog Traffic Update - Secured Traffic Summary

2017 Blog Traffic Update – Secured Traffic Summary

 

Considering summer is here, and people (rightfully so) spend more time outside, it looks like we will be hovering around the 35.000-40.000 page views per month. We probably will be having about 4.500-5.500 unique visitors per month. Based on the summaries above, we had about 250.000 or so page views in the first half of this year. Not half bad, but certainly not spectacular either! Various established bloggers pull this in per month.

However, I realize I’m already writing for a niche public (Dutch FIRE) in a niche community (Personal Finance). But my analytical way of thinking (and writing) is not for everyone (you may call it boring/factual). What you also won’t find here is tips of saving money or how to destroy debt, as these topics are in our nature and we find it “normal” to do this under all circumstances. But it’s those types of posts that attract most readers on various other blogs. The investment side is far more interesting to us!

Considering all of this, I’m pretty happy that I’m not just blogging for myself, but other people actually “enjoy” our posts and find them helpful. The personal feedback during the last FIRE meet up was than also priceless!

What You Liked

Based on combined numbers for secured and non-secured sites, the following posts were most popular in terms of page views:

Posts We Liked

The following posts we liked best, simply because of the new insights they gave or the clarity it brought in terms of “peace of mind”:

 

What about you, what did you like best personally and why? What topic would you like to see covered?

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