Our television decided to partially die, how does a television partially die? No idea, but it sometimes works, and sometimes it doesn’t. We even brought it to a repair guy, but he could not figure out what was wrong with the bloody thing. It refused to die in his repair shop, whereas it had no problems doing it at our house. The fight continues with the partially died television…….

Television

Yes, we still have (a partially operational) television. But we dumped cable back in early 2009. We had cable in the Netherlands, so after arriving in Canada we tried cable for a short while too. However we got so fed up by the amount of commercials we got rid of it as soon as possible. Yes, commercials are annoying in the Netherlands, but Canada and US have brought annoying to a whole new level!

Netflix

Netflix had just started in Canada in late 2010, so we gave that a try. Almost 7 years later and we still have Netflix. The relatively small monthly fee was worth it in terms of not having annoying commercials and a good selection.

Lately though we have been debating to also drop Netflix, especially now that the TV is also on it’s way out to the dodo’s. But we have not pulled the trigger yet. Miss CF does like to watch the occasional cartoons. Netflix is a far better option than using YouTube. No junk, no commercials but fewer options (so she gets bored an stops watching!!).

Television - Netflix

Television – Netflix
Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/on-demand/0/netflix-codes-secret-numbers-unlock-1000s-hidden-films-tv-shows/

How Much?

How much television do we watch? Probably too much, but we primarily watch documentaries and movies. We occasionally watch a few series, but not nearly as much as we used to (no time, something with kids…). We don’t watch news, talk shows or sports (we rather DO sports). However, we are suckers for shows about real estate……(Grand Designs is awesome!).

Because the TV really didn’t want to turn on for more than 5 min, we were prevented from watching television for most of the month of December. In the beginning we didn’t mind too much, and even debated to ditch the television (and associated equipment/media) completely. However, by week 3 we started to miss it. We really enjoy watching movies and documentaries. It’s just great (low cost!) entertainment and gives you time to relax a bit. So be brought the TV in for repairs (which failed miserably as noted earlier).

The Old Television

We bought our current television back in 2007. At that time the whole concept of FIRE didn’t really exist for us. We were generally frugal, but had a lapse in judgement with this one…. I had been working internationally and was earning some very good money. As I have always been into watching movies, I wanted a big screen TV. We ended up buying a 46” LCD television, a Sony Bravia with glass and aluminum rim (very nice model). For that time it was huge and very expensive. We paid about €3.200 for it, ridiculous! As this television is now pretty much written off completely, the yearly depreciation costs are about €320…ouch.

Television - Sony Bravia 46X2000

Television – Sony Bravia 46X2000
Source: http://www.techradar.com/reviews/audio-visual/televisions/plasma-and-lcd-tvs/sony-bravia-kdl-46×2000-116361/review

A New Television?

So the hunt is on for a new television. But considering we have not been looking at new televisions for about a decade (ours was working fine till now, so had no desire to look around), it’s interesting. We actually found out we are a bunch of dinosaurs! We still have a VCR recorder (1998), a DVD player (2001) and a PS3 (2012 – Free!), neither of which is used regularly (and a vinyl jukebox and record player – perhaps we are fossils?!). Guess we still have all this because of sentimental reasons. The minimalist in us is still losing this battle.

But this begs the question, what does the new television need to adhere to in terms of specs? Are we going to look for SCART hookups? Or are we going to solely go for HDMI? How big do we want the screen to be? What screen resolution would we like? How much money do we want to spend on a new one? Heck, what do you pay for one these days? We had no idea!

After some digging around we noticed that TV’s are a lot less expensive then they used to be. LCD and Plasma TV’s pretty much disappeared and are replaced with LED TV’s. These are also a lot more energy efficient too. Our energy use would go down by about 60-80% depending on model and size, compared to what we use now. That’s a lot! Then again, the amount of energy it takes to make one is insane too. No TV is definitely better 😉

Today

We still have not bought a new TV, the old one seems to hang in there for now (it miraculously started to work again, has not turned off in two weeks now???). If we buy something new (eventually), it will likely be a smaller model between 32” and 40”.  We will likely stick to HD and not 4k in terms of resolution. Reason is simple, older movies look extremely fake on high resolution TV’s, which takes some of the fun out of it for me. HD TV’s are also cheaper, so two reasons to keep it simple(r).

It will likely still come with a SCART connection (not yet ready to ditch the DVD collection, call us weak if you will) and will not cost more than €300-350. About what we paid per year for our first big flat-screen television!

Oh, we did check out second hand stores and ebay/marktplaats/kijiji/etc., but the prices for a used ones are the same as for a new one. People have not realized their used TV’s are not worth more than about €50-100. So this option is out for financial reasons (environmentally it would be smarter move thou….).

 

What’s up with your Telly? Still have one?

What better than to close out 2017 with a bang. The December 2017 Savings Rate was another amazing one. But honestly speaking, I would have rather seen a lower rate. Let me explain.

December Finances

One of the reasons why the December 2017 savings rate is ridiculous again is…….. the crappy weather. We have moved the appointment to do roof work to January or even February 2018! Still no dry weather window when the roofing contractor has the ability to show up and do his work.

On top of this, we also had a storm in January = a lot of roof damage = we are at the bottom of the list :-(. In short, the €1.200 maintenance bill is still postponed until further notice. Just want to get my roof repaired so we can tackle some stuff on the in side. Sigh….

Financial Overview

Here is the usual short financial overview for the month:

  • Expense claim + Mr. CF’s Salary + Mrs. CF’s double salary (13th month payment) = insane income;
  • The crowdfunding income was well above normal with €270 in deposits (combined interest and principle). One project closed out and we received all our principle + outstanding interest = we have a winner!;
  • Living and healthcare category was about €672 in total. This includes costs for mortgage interest, home insurance, healthcare premiums, utilities and some minor home maintenance/up keep. This month was well below average in expenses; 
  • The transport costs were below average with €222 spent. Expenses include fuel, insurance, road tax and ferry fees. Because of the “short” month from a work perspective ;
  • Grocery costs were a record high this month. Something to do with buying beer and other large groceries to start 2018 well stocked. Closed the month with €439 in expenses;
  • The kid category was €1.008, which is consisting of after school care (4 days per week, including benefits), a new large organic matrass (got a nice 50% off deal online) and covers. Miss CF changed from her infant/toddle bed (130cm long) to a full sized bed (210cm long) in December. She’s a big girl now ;-);
  • Travel and Leisure was €26. We decided to skip the Christmas “holiday abroad” and use the funds next year. However, we did some leisure events including ice skating, Monkey Town visit and a few other outings (most of them free or paid for by grandparents); and,
  • The other category was about €192. Money was spend on some cloths, gifts and the gym for Mrs. CF, cash and some expenses for the meetup in Gouda on the 30th of December.

December 2017 Savings Rate 

The savings rate for December was amazing with a final tally of 77.5%! The overall 2017 savings rate is now 66.0% at total expenses of €35.552 (you do the math). We are officially a badass gold saver for a second year in a row. Booya! 😉 

Here are the stats:

December 2017 Savings Rate - Overview

December 2017 Savings Rate – Overview

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

November 2017 Savings Rate - Expenses

November 2017 Savings Rate – Expenses

Forecast 2018

The year of 2018 is going to be one of change, and lots of it. We will be going on a 2 month road trip to southern Europe in the spring. It might look something like this (but it might also change depending on how we feel and what we like along the way):

Mr. CF will quit his job officially around the 1st of May and will become a stay at home dad (amongst others). Which will make a massive dent on the income side of things. The after school care costs should therefore reduce, but the utility costs will rise somewhat.

The plan is to have a savings rate next year in the order of 25-30%. Which is very low for us, but still pretty darn good on one and a third income + a major holiday. Curious to see what the year will bring, but primarily lots of fun I hope!

How about you? What’s the plan for 2018?

Amber Tree Leaves is still alive people! Spoke to him on Tuesday evening to discuss the upcoming BENL FIRE Meetup (Edition 5!). We are happy to announce more details of the next BENL FIRE Meetup – Leuven Edition. You in?

BENL FIRE Meetup – Leuven Edition

I hope that you are ready for another round of random internet dating with other FIRE enthusiasts. If you are, please mark your calendars for the weekend of February 24 and 25, 2018. We will be meeting up in the beautiful city of Leuven in Belgium.

This time around we are planning to make it into a weekend long event. As many of the Dutch (and other international visitors) will need to travel, the plan is to commence Saturday afternoon after lunch. We will conclude on Sunday afternoon, so there is sufficient time to travel home.

As per usual:

  • You are free to come and go as you please;
  • We will request the usual small fee to cover things like food, drinks and rental of the facilities/equipment. This usually boils down to around €10-15 per day (excluding breakfast/lunch/dinner!);
  • You are responsible for your own accommodation if you want to join for the full 2 days; and,
  • We strive to have the location(s) easily accessible by both car and public transport.

More details will be provided to all that register. Please take note, we are targeting a maximum of 40 people for this meetup on both Saturday 24 February and Sunday February 25.

BENL Meetup Leuven Belgium

BENL Meetup Leuven Belgium
Source: http://www.art7d.be/belLeuv1.html

What are we planning?

Not all details are clear just yet, but the general program for this weekend looks something like this.

Saturday February 24, 2018:

  • 13:00 – 14:00: Warm welcome and informal chats;
  • 14:00 – 18:00: Presentations and discussions (we are considering an afternoon about Dividend Growth Investing. For the discussions we are looking for your opinions, strategies, tips and tricks!)
  • 18:00 – 20:00: Dinner (local restaurant); and,
  • 20:00 – ??:??: Belgian BEER and other drinks + more informal chats.

Sunday February 25, 2018:

  • 10:00 – 12:00 Leuven City walking tour with Amber Tree Leaves as our tour guide;
  • 12:00 – 13:00 Brown bag lunch; and,
  • 13:00 – 16:00 Presentations and discussions about Permaculture and ethical investing.
BENL Meetup

BENL Meetup – Leuven Edition!

Why should you come?

Because it is entertaining, interesting  and simply put: great fun! It’s liberating to interact with people that think and act like you do. Yes, there are other people that don’t think it is weird to bring your own snacks/drinks! Go figure 🙂

If you want more motivations and some insights in previous meetups, have a look here (some posts are in Dutch):

Successful Eindhoven BENL FIRE Meetup

Big Fun – Utrecht meetup

Belgium-Netherlands Meetup

Meetup fun in Antwerp

https://hetrijkewijf.blogspot.nl/2017/06/fire-feeling-hot-hot-hot.html

http://hypotheekweg.blogspot.nl/2017/06/bloggers-bijeenkomst.html

Real Estate Investing; a Dutch Case Study

Is H.O.T the new F.I.R.E?

Antwerpen bijeenkomst

Do you want to join?

Please drop us or Amber Tree Leaves a comment/email (info @ “ourblogname”.nl) and we will add you to the (ever growing) distribution list!

Looking forward to a whole weekend of financial and FIRE fun!

The December 2017 Dividend Update is commonly one that stands out, in a positive way, right? But not this year! Since we have been shuffling money around from stocks into real estate, we actually ended up going down. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Monthly Dividend Update

As noted in previous posts, we have sold all our core Dutch dividend shares now (RDS, UN and AH). But we still received the dividend from UN (for 200 shares). We now only hold dividend shares in our Canadian pension accounts. The one-year plan is to focus on the real estate side of things and keep the current asset distribution for now.

We are also planning to “clean up” the dividend shares within the Canadian pension accounts. We need to focus on actual dividend growth shares (and stop chasing yield). So we did a “detailed” assessment for 2017 with the following results:

  • We now have 39 different Canadian shares;
  • 28 of these continued to raise their dividends (keep these and expand positions!);
  • 9 did not change their dividends (primarily REITs, which we will keep for DRIPs; others we will sell); and,
  • unfortunately 2 cut their dividends (sell these!).

The short term goal is to sell 3 stocks (CJB, WJA and ET; at set trigger levels) that maintained their dividends. One stock that cut their dividend (POT) is now already converted into a new stock, which we will hang on to for now. The other stocks are still under review.

The money received will be redeployed into new positions or will be used to increase positions in actual dividend growth stocks.

Oh, don’t forget to check out the community updates at the Dividend Diplomats and Easy Dividend!

December Dividends

All the dividend deposits received into the bank accounts (correct for exchange rates) sum up to a total dividend income of about €588. This is a decrease of 6.0% compared to last year. Still overall dividends for the year grew by 29.3%!

The stats for last month:

December 2017 Dividend Update - Dividend Income

December 2017 Dividend Update – Dividend Income

The graph below is showing the yearly dividend totals for 2015, 2016 and our final dividend total for 2017. We received over €7220 in dividends in 2017. But we are not going to get close to this in 2018! The sale of the Dutch shares will make sure of this.

December 2017 Dividend Update - Yearly Dividend

December 2017 Dividend Update – Yearly Dividend

Dividend Stock Overview

Our dividend portfolio contains 39 companies with a total of 9.520 shares (down 787 shares from a year ago). As of January 2018, without any buys or sells, we will have 38 as POT and AGU will merge into one company.

The portfolio looks like this:

December 2017 Dividend Update - Dividend Overview

December 2017 Dividend Update – Dividend Overview

Dividend Sector Breakdown

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

December 2017 Dividend Update - Sector Allocation

December 2017 Dividend Update – Sector Allocation

 

How did you do in the final month of December?

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!

https://twitter.com/Roadmap2Retire/status/946904216236429312

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?

Well what better than to wrap up and summarize 2017 than with the Cheesy Index? In this December 2017 Cheesy Index post we will also look at the portfolio allocation and some random financial statistics, which also showed we were FI in 2017! Too bad that from a cash-flow perspective we still have a long way to go….

December 2017 Cheesy Index

Despite not having posted the December savings rate or dividend incomes yet, we could already see that 2017 was going to be a great year for the Cheesy Index (see also the post form last month). We closed out the year with a Cheesy Index with a total of 69%! Just look at all the cheese stacking up, it’s just pretty ;-). We also shot past our 65% target for the year, in largely thanks to the stock market and our Real Estate income.

Here are the stats:

December 2017 Cheesy Index

December 2017 Cheesy Index

Portfolio Allocations

As you might be aware, we have divided our assets into three classes:

  • Income generating assets (stocks, real estate, loans, etc.);
  • Non-income generating assets (cash, our house, art, jukebox, etc.); and,
  • Depreciating assets (i.e. our car).

If you look at these three assets classes, and their development in 2017, you get this:

2017 Asset Allocations

2017 Asset Allocations

It is hard to miss the shift from ETF’s and Dividend shares to a Real Estate loan in November/December. But we now have more than 85% of our available wealth invested, that is good! However, we now have to work at getting some more cash for 2018. Primarily to pay for maintenance on our real estate and a 9 week road trip holiday (partially unpaid) in Q2 2018.

Portfolio Allocations – Income Assets

When you now breakdown the income assets into the following categories:

  • Our real estate;
  • The dividend shares;
  • Our Index funds;
  • The various crowdfunding loans;
  • Some sustainable investments (solar/wind); and finally,
  • Crypto-currencies.

And you dump all that into a graph for 2017, it looks like this:

2017 Income Asset Allocations

2017 Income Asset Allocations

As you can see, we are now heavily invested into Real Estate, followed by dividend shares. We currently have virtually no ETF’s anymore, very little crowdfunding left and only small positions in sustainable investments and crypto currencies. It’s unlikely that there will be major changes in this final distribution (from December 2017) during 2018.

Random Statistics and why we were FI in 2017 (and why not)

Ok, now for the fun part, here are some random statistics and notes for the financial year 2017:

  • Overall expenses covered by total investment income (before taxes): 107.6% (the bank decided to shift some charges to 2018, so it went up since this surprisingly popular tweet)
  • Total core expenses (excludes daycare and holidays/leisure expenses) covered by total investment income (before taxes): 149.7% (holy heck!!)
  • Total core expenses (excludes daycare and holidays) covered by net cash-flow (including estimated taxes): 91.8%
  • Target FIRE expenses covered by current net cash-flow (including estimated taxes): 83.9%
  • Overall 2017 return on investment (on income assets): 8.2%
  • 2017 was our highest income year on record, just a but higher than our previous record high from 2012
  • Net Worth increase in 2017: 20.1%

As you can see both taxes and cash-flow limitations are “killing” us right now. That being said, due to higher than expected yields we are close to FIRE than the cheesy index makes us believe. This is also not influenced by market valuations, which is promising!

 

Slowly but surely getting there! How about you?

 

 

It is time for the last post of the year! There is a little bit of time left to discuss Real Estate and some of our plans for 2018. Time for the Real Estate Report – December 2017 edition.

Real Estate Report – December 2017

Rental Income

Our rental income for December, in combination with a new private Real Estate investment loan, has rocketed our income to almost €3.400. During December we rolled two separate private real estate loans into one. Because the second loan only commenced halfway the month, the interest only reflects a portion of the total forward monthly income. The loan has already been used to purchase new real estate. Exciting times for all parties involved.

The monthly income overview is provided below:

Real Estate Update - December 2017 Income

Real Estate Update – December 2017 Income

Rental Expenses

The expense for December were very low again. The expenses consisted of the usual:

  • Mortgage and loan payments,
  • Management fees; and,
  • We got some money back due to a corrected tax assessment! Always good news.

Maintenance on the heating systems of two units was done in late December, but the bills will come in January. Due to a lack of any other works, we have no maintenance expense this month.

The expenses for the month are as follows:

Real Estate Update - December 2017 Expenses

Real Estate Update – December 2017 Expenses

Real Estate Report – Overview

What better than to close the year with a big bang?! We made a total of almost €2.871 in net rental and loan income for the month of December (before taxes). The net cash-flow will come in at around €2.200 for this month.

Our total net rental income for 2017 came in at almost €23.617 (before taxes), the associated net cashflow is around €18.600. This is all much more than we expected last year when we made the forecast. This is all due to the delay in maintenance works for the exterior of two units, which is currently estimated at €6.500 (have the quote already). We were too late with getting stuff sorted and now have to wait for the next warm season.

Real Estate Update - December 2017 Overview

Real Estate Update – December 2017 Overview

Real Estate Report – Forecast

Ok, so the sale of one unit has started and is expected to close in March/April. Why that late? Because some of the parties will be abroad. Perhaps we can speed things up, but we have not looked into this at the moment. We also still need to complete assessments of the property to determine the final sales price and arrange a mortgage with our relative, who will be buying the property. Lots of fun stuff

Based on the existing situation, anticipated new tenants, the planned sale and the scheduled maintenance work. Here is a quick overview of the numbers for 2018.

  • €38.500 rental and loan income (excluding any new investments)
  • €20.000 expenses (includes €6.500 for large scale external maintenance for two units scheduled in April 2018)
  • €18.500 net income (cash flow is considerably lower as the loan payments are not paid out but compound)

In short, we expect higher operating costs next year and therefore a slightly lower net income in 2018 than in 2017. Note that we don’t know how, or in what, we will invest the proceeds of the unit sale. Perhaps we will do another real estate loan, or we might purchase one of two units. Will keep you posted as always!

 

Best wishes for you and your family and all the best in Real Estate investing in 2018!

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!

As all of you are aware (if you are not, you have been living under a rock!), cryptocurrencies have gone bananas lately (and plummeted next). We have also decided to dip our toes into the new world of cryptocurrencies: the Combicoin! It’s not really investing, so much as gambling, but you have to have some fun money, right?

Disclaimer: we have no interests in Triaconta or Combicoin, nor do we get any compensation for writing this post!

However, if you are interested after reading this post and have done your own homework and risk assessment (!), you may use this link to buy your Combicoins: https://triaconta.com/?ref=COMBI-214484

If you do, we both will get 0.5% extra combicoins.

Update 09-01-2018: the sale of the Combicoin has been temporarily suspended due to a voluntary process to get regulatory approval. For those who already have Combicoins, you are able to sell them back to Triaconta in February, or can wait to sell them on the trading platform once it’s operational. See news here: https://triaconta.com/triaconta-is-voluntarily-acquiring-regulatory-approval/

Cryptocurrencies: the Combicoin

Because we (currently) lack the general understanding of which cryptocurrencies have more long-term potential than others, it’s difficult to know what to buy. Bitcoin certainly is not the answer as it’s too slow to be used as an actual currency. It also needs amazing amounts of energy to be mined (and traded), not really sustainable!

But which one is? Ripple? Dash? Beats me (you are strongly encouraged to leave some comments)! However, the same applies as with ETF’s and index funds. If you don’t know which one “candy” (read: company/coin) to buy, just buy the candy store! That is how we found the Combicoin. Albeit technically, the Combicoin is not a cryptocurrency but a token.

Cryptocurrencies - Combicoin

Cryptocurrencies – Combicoin

Combicoin

The Combicoin was developed by a bunch of our smart countrymen at a company called Triaconta. They thought that making a candy store was a good idea. So they came up with the Combicoin, which is supposed to be fully backed by the top 30 cryptocurrencies. The idea is that the value of this token is based on the underlying value of the top 30 cryptocurrencies and fluctuates accordingly.

When the asset distribution (which starts at 1/30th for each) gets skewed, the portfolio is rebalanced by buying and selling the underlying cryptocurrencies. This is done periodically or if certain trigger levels are hit. The asset distribution as per 19 December 2017 is as follows (check out their webpage for more up to date information).

Cryptocurrencies - Distribution

Cryptocurrencies – Distribution

Status

Ok, so late November we purchased about 77 Combicoins, which cost us around $15.30 each after exchange rates and fees. The initial investment was thus €1.000. This is what happened next (Extra Note 22-12-2017 – value dropped like a brick to around $28 and recovered a bit):

Cryptocurrencies - Status 19 December 2017

Cryptocurrencies – Status 19 December 2017

But here is the kicker, we cannot sell yet!!! We will have to wait until the company (Triaconta) has developed the trading software. Next it needs to find an exchange that accepts this Combicoin and will allow trading it. Until that time we will have to wait, watch and see what’s going to happen. It does make this rollercoaster ride a lot easier to handle 🙂

We have done our research into the company, the white paper and online reviews and comments. However, I can’t vouch for the company or the token. It seems legit, I have received the tokes and everything seems to go according to what they write on their website. But I now have to trust the company and their abilities to actually make a profit on this investment (or was it a gamble?). Only time will tell.

That being said, it has been a rather hilarious exercise so far! Every time I look, the value goes up or done massively. Bet you that by the time we can sell, the market has imploded and the value of the Combicoin is less then we paid for it. At least we would have had some fun. That being said, we do view this as a buy and hold “investment”.

How about you?

Have you bought cryptocurrencies already? If so, which ones and did you already make some money (i.e. did you actually cash in on the increase in value)? What are you going to do with the proceeds? Reinvest in cryptocurrencies or other? Any recommendations for which individual cryptocurrencies to buy and hold?

Oops, just discovered that I never did the October 217 Cheesy Index. Ha, too busy writing all kinds of ethical stuff. To catch up here are the October and November 2017 Cheesy Index.

October 2017 Cheesy Index

Thanks to the great savings rate of October, the Cheesy Index continued its march upwards. We even blasted past the 2017 target and landed on 66.7%! That absolutely amazing and I had to check all excel sheets to make sure that there was no error somewhere. A 1.7% increase in just a month? How is that possible?

It was a perfect storm, high savings/investment incomes, massive stock market change and favourable exchange rate. Everything aligned nicely for this month. Question remains, could we continue in November?

Here are the stats:

October 2017 Cheesy Index

October 2017 Cheesy Index

November 2017 Cheesy Index

Yes, also in November were able to hold on to the already high Cheesy Index even increase it further. Same as in October, also the November savings rate was great! Include some great dividends and real estate income and you have a winner 🙂

Here are the stats:

November 2017 Cheesy Index

November 2017 Cheesy Index

Cheesy Index Forecast

So, now what? We have moved a lot of our available funds into an RE venture with some other investors. This means that our investment exposure to stocks has somewhat reduced (currently having a tiny exposure to ETF’s and still a sizable dividend portfolio).

Because of this switch we had to end all options contracts that were still open, which hurt, a lot! Simply did not have sufficient margin available to keep them, it was not an decision that was taken lightly. Time will tell if this was a good move. We have started a small position in crypto currencies and we completed our first sustainable investment.

What does this mean for the Cheesy Index? It should continue to increase “slowly” in the next year (2018), without major changes due to stock market changes (up or down) or dropping savings rate (due to unpaid leave and a 2 month European road trip). With a 10 year bull market, we want to be in good position to convert our available cash-flow into ETF’s/Dividend shares when the next correction roles around, whether that be 2018 or 2019 or later.

What to expect for the end of 2017? We anticipate to hit somewhere around the 69.0% mark. It all depends on the stock market (as per usual) and the timing of real estate income (considering January 1 is a Monday, most funds will likely come in on the first week of 2018).

 

How were the developments in your net worth or “index” for November? How are you shaping up for the year? Also trending towards a record?

As mentioned in a previous Real Estate Report, we have been looking into real estate loans. We have even already had a meeting with a real estate loan platform, and have been “approved” to become dedicated investors. Let’s have a look at said platform and associated pros and cons.

Disclaimer: we have no interests in Mogelijk.nl nor do we get any compensation for writing this post!

Real Estate Loans via Mogelijk.nl

A reader from our blog (which we also met in person during on of the meetups) gave us a hint a while back. She had been in contact with the people from Mogelijk.nl and believed it could be interesting for us. And right she was! We dropped them a message and got talking about the services they provide and the opportunities they have.

Real Estate Loans - Mogelijk.nl

Real Estate Loans – Mogelijk.nl

The Setup

The platform works sort of as a crowdfunding platform, but with one main difference. Instead of having many different investors, there will only be one. Yes, one investor per project. The reason is simple, the investor will get the first lien right (hypotheekrecht or “mortgage right”) on the property. With crowdfunding this is not the case, the property is however used as collateral for the crowdfunding loan.

How does it work? it’s rather simple actually. You first have an initial meeting with the people behind Mogelijk.nl. It’s their policy to screen all potential investors to see if they are a good fit. We had a very good, about 2.5 hour long, conversation about them and us. We reviewed options, discussed risks, opportunities and limitations.

Next, they grant you access to the platform and place you on the distribution list for new prospects (posted every Tuesday). Once you have found one that your like, you take an option on that project. The short version of what happens next: you, the person requesting the loan and someone from the platform visit the notary public. Here the money is transferred, mortgage documents are prepared and signed and you are on your way.

When the contract is signed and the money is transferred, the monthly repayments commence. Similar to a mortgage (and most crowdfunding loans), you now receive interest and repayment of principle. Depending on the conditions of the loan, the principle could be paid back completely, or partially over a 20 year amortization period.

The Pros

What are the neat perks for this type of investment loan? The following come to mind:

  • Good yield considering the risk profile (most are around 5-6% per annum after fees);
  • Choices between residential and commercial real estate;
  • Mogelijk.nl provides all administration, collection and distribution of funds (and legal advice/support), so you don’t have to worry about any of this;
  • You invest in real estate without any of the associated hassles!;
  • It is possible to transfer the mortgage right to another investor (various fees apply), so you can get your money out of the investment if required;
  • You have first mortgage right (and generally low loan-to-value ratios), so even if the project runs into default and needs to be liquidated, the changes of losing your principle are (very?) small;
  • If the project runs into default, you have the chance to purchase the property yourself during auction and add it to your portfolio; and,
  • Long term contracts (normally a 20 year amortization period and 5 year fixed interest rates).
Real Estate Loans - Possible Investments

Real Estate Loans – Possible Investments

The Cons (and fees)

Not everything is perfect obviously. There are some downsides and costs to consider:

  • As with most investments via financial platforms there are costs associated with participation. As an investor you pay a 2% commission at the start of the loan agreement;
  • You also pay 0.5% fees over the monthly interest portion of the repayment for administrative works performed by Mogelijk.nl;
  • There is a risk that the loan is repaid in full before the end of the loan agreement (and you need to start looking for a new project or other investment), hence the higher interest rate;
  • If we are in a (housing) crisis, the project runs into default and needs to be liquidated at an action, there is a change you get less principle back then you put in. If you don’t have the means to buy the property yourself at that time, you will lose money;
  • The interest is fixed for 5 years, but you don’t know what interests will do afterwards;
  • No possible real estate taxation benefits in Box 3 (you have to include the entire loan value for your tax assessment); and,
  • You need a lot of money to start with! The minimum amount to invest is €100.000 (max. loans are €500.000).

Other considerations

In summary, you get a pretty decent return on investment with these loans for pretty much no work required. That’s very appealing! Especially to us lazy investors. There are some inherent risks to this investment, of which early repayment is our largest concern. Due to the low loan-to-value ratio and the ability to buy the property at auction, we consider the risks associated with defaults limited.

Another thing you need to consider is that you will not benefit from any value increase of the property (it does work in your favor in the sense that it further reduces the loan-to-value ratio over time).

I hear you think, why not buy a property yourself if you have that much money? We have, very actively, be looking to see if you could find one, but none that we found even came close to this net return on investment (even after taxes!). Considering the effort and risks that go into having a property yourself, you really want the return to match. With the current high valuations, the limitation that we want to property managed (for tax and risk reasons), it’s hard to find a good deal. So if you cannot find one, what do you do?

Real Estate Loans - Deal

Real Estate Loans – Deal
Source: http://leadersinrealestate.com/finding-the-greatest-deals-in-commercial-real-property/

What’s next?

We actually just made a private loan deal with other real estate investors last week for a total value of €125.000. So we are out of money for the next little while, that is until we sell one of our rental units early next year to family. With the proceeds of that sale we are seriously considering picking up one of these loans.

We doubt that we will see a major housing market correction any time soon that will make local real estate appealing again. We are also not really looking to take on a lot of leverage in the near future either. Loans such as these therefore become quite an appealing investment (unless we see a major stock market correction in the mean time).

 

What do you think? Have any of you ever done any of these type of real estate loans before?

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?

How about a November 2017 Dividend Update? Not really a month that stands out, but we still have quite a few monthly payers that even make this month interesting.

Monthly Dividend Update

We had a sell order in place for UFS (Domtar Corp) that triggered on the last day of the month. It’s not a bad company, but we found that our position (in terms of value) was a bit too high for our likings. If the price would come down again, we might pick it back up. In the mean time we will spread some of the proceeds around to other companies that have more growth potential (both in value as well as in dividend growth).

One monthly dividend payer (temporarily?) stopped paying, being LIQ (liquor stores). They are not doing well and have already cut their dividend big time a while back. They are also restructuring and have been selling their US assets. We have previously unloaded some of these shares and are considering to now sell the remaining shares.  Perhaps it’s time to take our losses and move on? We are considering to wait a while to see if the restructuring causes share price increase.

We continued to DRIP as many shares as possible (no fees and some share price discounts!). These include the usual monthly dividend payers such as (and a few quarterly payers too such as BMO, RBC, FTT and EMA):

  • AAR.UN (REIT);
  • CJR.B (Communication Services);
  • CIX (Finance);
  • DRG.UN (REIT);
  • SJR.B (Communication Services);
  • HR.UN (REIT); and,
  • PLZ.UN (REIT).

Don’t forget to check out the community updates at the Dividend Diplomats and Easy Dividend.

November Dividends

All the dividend deposits received into the bank accounts (correct for exchange rates) sum up to a total dividend income of about €422. This is an decrease of about 2.8% compared to last year. Wait, what? A decrease? Yes, but this is only driven by the exchange rate, in CAD terms we actually saw an increase of 4.8% in YoY dividend increases. We are not worried yet 😉

The stats for last month:

November 2017 Dividend Update - Dividend Income

November 2017 Dividend Update – Dividend Income

The graph below is showing the yearly dividend totals for 2015 and 2016, and a year-to-date dividend total for 2017. It’s starting to really look pretty, doesn’t it? We should crack that €7.000 barrier by the end of the year. However, because we sold RDSA before the dividend record date, the December dividend income will be significantly lower than last year.

November 2017 Dividend Update - Yearly Dividend Overview

November 2017 Dividend Update – Yearly Dividend Overview

The “Dutch” dividend income (AH and UNA) are all after taxes (15%). The rest are held in RRSP’s and are not taxed (we will pay withholding tax when we withdraw from the account, but the dividends are not taxed themselves).

Dividend Stock Overview

Our dividend portfolio contains 42 companies with a total of 11.208 shares (up 986 shares from a year ago).

It looks like this:

November 2017 Dividend Update - Dividend Overview

November 2017 Dividend Update – Dividend Overview

Dividend Sector Breakdown

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

November 2017 Dividend Update - Sector Allocation

November 2017 Dividend Update – Sector Allocation

How was your dividend income, any good surprises for you too?

Let’s have a drink! No, this post is not about buying your favorite liquor (will, maybe it is, it’s up to you 🙂 ). As the next BENL FIRE meetup is proposed for later February or Early March, we wanted to do something in between. So we devised a simple plan…..let’s have a drink!

The Plan?

The plan is rather simple actually, we name a location and venue(s) and you show up. How simple is that? No presentations or formal program for the day, no fees, just fun discussion and something to drink and eat. All at your own discretion of course (i.e. everyone pays for their own food and consumptions). We make no reservations anywhere, so be prepared to be flexible.

Obviously, similar to the meetups, the locations have to be easy to access by public transport, car and/or bicycle. But since we are lazy, we are currently planning to stick to cities in South-Holland so we keep our travel limited.

For this first drink we are proposing the beautiful city Gouda. Yes, from the Cheese (appropriate, isn’t it? You’d almost think we did this on purpose!). Potentially followed by places like Leiden, Haarlem, Delft, the Hague, Rotterdam, etc., if it’s a success (it’s up to you, no pressure).

Let's have a drink! - Gouda

Let’s have a drink! – Gouda
Source: https://www.holland.com/be_nl/toerisme/bestemmingen/provincies/zuid-holland/gouda.htm

Why?

We love meeting with people that are interested in personal finance, investing and FIRE. Same as you we struggle to find people in our daily lives to chat with, we hope that these informal meetings will help.

When?

Saturday December 30, 2017.

Location(s)?

The plan is to start after lunch at around 14:00 and meet at the “Siroopwafels & Banketbakkerij-Tearoom Van den Berg” in Gouda. For details have a look here: http://vd-berg.nl/contact-1

Let's have a drink - Stroopwafels

Let’s have a drink – Stroopwafels
Source: https://www.tripadvisor.nl/Restaurant_Review-g188628-d10302255-Reviews-Het_Stroopwafelwinkeltje-Gouda_South_Holland_Province.html

Between 17:00-19:00 we will just walk to the town square to get some dinner or a quick snack. If you want to join, make sure you are at the Tearoom before 17:00.

From about 19:00 onwards we will be at beer café “De Goudse Eend”. For details see here: http://www.cafedegoudseeend.nl/

Alternatives?

If you want to organize something yourself too, please do! But do let us know, we would love to come.

 

See you soon!

 

 

Cool, another month with “just above normal” savings rates. Not entirely expected, but we will take it! Here is the November 2017 Savings Rate.

November Finances

November was another very good month. But also for an less fortunate reason. We wanted to have some work done on our house/roof. But could not due to the crappy weather. We have moved the appointment twice already as it needs to be dry. Dry and November don’t go well together! Go figure…. In short, the €1200 maintenance bill is postponed until further notice (just need dry weather AND availability of the roofing contractor, how hard can that be in December?!).

Financial Overview

Here is a short financial overview:

  • Due to receiving 4 weekly wage payments for Mr CF, you always have one month per year with 2 payments! November was it 🙂 . So we received a lot of money in November. No expense claims though or other extra income. We thus had a well above normal month from in income perspective;
  • The crowdfunding income was below normal with €184 in deposits (combined interest and principle), some payments were received already last month (bank error);
  • Living and healthcare category was high at about €1.016 in total. This includes costs for mortgage interest, home insurance, healthcare premiums, utilities and some minor home maintenance. We also bought 9 “wind participations” through our energy supplier (€440). This is a one-off charge (they use the proceeds to build a new windturbine) that provides a discount to energy consumption for the next 5 years. Call it a prepayment for green electricity use; 
  • The transport costs were way above average with €791 spent. The €500 deductible for the second windscreen this year really hurt (first one was free, but changed he policy earlier this year. Because how big is the chance of having two windows cracked/broken in one year……right?!);
  • Grocery costs were again well below normal this month with just €281;
  • The kid category was above the “new” normal with about €617, which is consisting of after school care (4 days per week, including benefits) and a one-off school fee;
  • Travel and Leisure was €0. No money spent at all? Really?! Strange thing was that is was quite busy on the social front, but all free! How about that; and,
  • The other category was about €170. Money was spend on some cloths, gifts and the gym for Mrs CF.

November 2017 Savings Rate 

The savings rate for November was a very good 71.7%. The year-to-date savings rate is now up to 64,5%. We are definitely not going to make platinum for 2017, but the badass gold saver category “winner” is in the bag! 

Here are the stats:

November 2017 Savings Rate - Overview

November 2017 Savings Rate – Overview

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

November 2017 Savings Rate - Expenses

November 2017 Savings Rate – Expenses

 

How was your November from a savings perspective?