Most (if not all) of you are familiar with the Savings Rate (check the link for more details). It is simply put the ratio between your savings (defined as income minus expenses) and income. It’s a great tool to give you an idea how efficient you are with your money.

After some conversations in Antwerp and comments on posts by another blogger (Mr FOB – Dutch Blog), we realized that we should also consider and review another Financial Independence (FI) metric: The Investment Index.

Investment Index

Investment Index

Investment Index

This is not a rocket science invention, but something useful for those of you that are interested how close you are towards FI. The Investment Index is nothing more than the ratio between your investment income and your household expenses.

Thus: Investment Income / Expenses * 100% = Investment Index

The result interpretation is pretty obvious, if it is higher than 100% you are technically FI. Well at least for that month or that year. Perhaps you would also continoiusly need well over 100% to stay FI in the long run (think inflation and market swings)!

Expenses

The expenses are relatively easy to calculate. You just have to review your bank statements and add up all the costs you have on a monthly or yearly basis.

Small caveat, you can do this on cash-flow or cost basis principle. In the cash-flow case your entire expense of your mortgage is included (i.e. interest and principal payment). In the cost basis version, you only include your paid interest. Same applies to personal and business loans. For car loans (if you have any), I strongly recommend using the cash-flow principle!

Investment income

The investment income should be easy to calculate, but depending on what type of asset(s) you have it could be quite the calculation.

Same as with the expenses, you can use the cash-flow principle of the cost basis principle. Albeit this primarily revolves around real estate (i.e. due to mortgage/loan payments). For most other assets (stocks, bonds, options, etc.), you simply take the increase in value (minus any investments and/or purchase costs) for the month or the year.

But fortunately you could also simplify life and just use your net worth increase for the month or the year (minus invested funds). This is obviously not as accurate, but in our case a lot easier to calculate (same as the financial freedom sloth, we can be very lazy!)

Yearly Historical Data

As noted above, we are lazy, so we used our net worth option to calculate our Investment Index. Note that we use cost basis for these calculations.

Considering we saw the FIRE light in 2014, it makes sense to see how we did since that time. As you can see below, 2014 and 2016 were pretty good. For 2014 is was primarily our real estate that helped out, as we had bought a wreck and transformed it into two nice rental units. As a result the value of the property rose more than the initial investment = good year from an investment income perspective.

Investment Index

2014-2016 Investment Index

As we emigrated back to the Netherlands 2015, this year was horrible. Very high expenses due to the international move, little to invest (and some major investments occurred into our real estate: new kitchen/bathroom) and thus a low (well negative actually) Investment Index.

In 2016 we turned things around, especially with the new real estate and the sky-rocketing market. We are actually getting really close to FI when looking at last year! In fact, if we were FI our expenses would be considerably lower as we would not have daycare. With daycare removed from the expenses, the Investment Index would actually have been 137%! We technically were FI last year, how good is that?!

Taxes and Cash-flow

But before we get too excited. Taxes have not been included in the above calculations, as the bill for our 2016 wealth will come later this year. As noted earlier, this is all evaluated on cost basis, from a cash-flow perspective we are definitely not there yet! Furthermore, this was yet another bull market year. So it’s a bit skewed upwards too.

We have come to the conclusion that we prefer to become FI on a cash-flow basis, and want to do this by having primarily dividend stocks and real estate. We therefore want to develop this Investment Index also from a cash-flow perspective, but realized that taxes are making this rather difficult. Keep in mind that we have Canadian pension accounts that have a withholding tax of 25%, which holds the majority of our dividend stocks. We will therefore pick this up in a later posts.

Indexes

It is also interesting to see the difference between the Cheesy Index and the Investment Index with regards to the proximity to FI. The main reason for this is that the Cheesy Index assumes an average, a long term 4% Safe Withdrawal Rate (SWR). This actually is not entirely correct anymore as the 4% rule applies to a portfolio made of stocks and bonds. We simply don’t have such a portfolio. Secondly, the 4% is probably too high for the future for such a portolio. Check out the SWR post series by Earyretirementnow.com if you are interested.

That being said, we think that with our portfolio a long term 4% net return is considered somewhat conservative. It is therefore also unsurprising that the Investment Index show’s we are closer to FI than our Cheesy Index does. If we could only get our cash-flow up quickly, we could become FI very soon 🙂 Do miracles exist, or will it be old fashioned hard work? Nevermind, don’t answer that……

Have you calculated your equivalent of the “Investment Index” before? If so, where are you? How much does if differ from your equivalent of the “Cheesy Index”? We are curious to know!

it’s time for cheese again, it is time for The Cheesy Index!

February 2017 Cheesy Index

This month we are very pleased to report another increase (starting to get “boring” eh?). We are up to 59.5%, that’s 1.3% for the month, an insane MOM increase! In this pace we will hit our target for 2017 already somewhere halfway the year. This cannot be right? Funny thing is, we even saw a bit of a drop at the end of February, which kind of recovered in early march again. Our month-end wealth was therefore actually a bit lower than during the surrounding days. Interesting thing is that this happened at the end of January too (and if I recall correctly, I’ve seen this happy a few times in 2016 as well). Not sure why? Any ideas as to month end market/currency fluctuations? Have not done an in depth analysis, but I’m starting to notice a trend. Perhaps I’m just tired from Miss CF being ill last week and I’m now seeing/remembering things that do not exist. It happened before 😉

February 2017 Cheesy Index

Echanges Rates – Part two

As to the exchange rates comment from last month, it looks like we have hit a new “bottom” for now. Based on our month-end numbers we have seen a slow and steady Euro weakening since early 2016. But exchange rates seem to have stabilized somewhat (i.e. exchange rates of the last two months were very similar), which also means less paper gains for February. This means that growth in the Cheesy Index for February is more “organic” (actual investment gains). Which is good, don’t really want to see “artificial” wealth gains, that would disappear during the next currency fluctuations.

This actually brings us to an interesting topic, hedging. At this stage we don’t hedge our investments, simply because we are in the accumulation phase. But when we will reach the withdrawal stage, steady cash-flow is a lot more critical. Perhaps we have to start looking at hedging or making bond reserves to withdraw from during large exchange rate fluctuations?

How did you do February? Another record high for you too, let us know!

Do you have an exit strategy? This was the question that Mrs. CF asked Mr. CF a couple of months ago during a conversation on investments. I was looking at her and glazed over a bit. A what? Was my counter question. An exit strategy? Having focused on increasing our various investment positions, exiting those positions was not really on the top of my mind. But she had a very valid point, when you buy certain assets, you will ultimately get rid of them too. It is therefore important to think about an exit strategy to make this work as smooth/profitable as possible.

Besides an exit strategy on investments, you might also need an exit strategy when it comes to your career. Albeit we are not there yet, (partial) FI is approaching faster than we initially thought. An career exit strategy is therefore really key at this stage, as the impact on our finances is rather larger when income is reduced and expenses temporarily increase (for details, keep reading :-).

Investment exit strategy

Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy

Why an exit strategy?

Simply but: life changes and evolves! An investment strategy might no longer fit with your preferences, life situation (e.g. divorce, kids, location independency, age, etc.) or market conditions.

For example, we own some real estate. We currently really like it, but we have also seen older folks that simply don’t want to deal with the risks or potential hassles/works (e.g. repairs/maintenance) when they get older. We have seen various investor trying to offload (a portion of) their real estate investment portfolio due to their age/changing preferences.

Another example is your age/time left on this planet, you might lose your risk appetite and decide to rebalance your portfolio from stock heavy to bond heavy. Or you might want to sell your business/franchise, or have someone manage it on your behalf (so you just receive dividends).

Planning for an exit strategy

Albeit not required in detail during your search for investments, you should considered how easy an asset is to sell. For shares, index funds and bonds this is pretty straight forward. But for real estate, crowdfunding loans, or (internet) businesses/franchises this could be a lot more difficult. It can take time to transition these assets to another owner (or may not be possible at all!). If you have time this is not an issue, but if there are time constraints (say due to a divorce/illness/etc.) you have to make sure your asset is ready to be sold at any given time. However, it also needs to sell for the right price!

What to consider?

Here are a few things which you could consider:

  • Approximate moment from or to a major market crash/correction;
  • Conditions of your portfolio (up/down);
  • Type of assets (Stocks / bonds / Loans / Real Estate / combinations);
  • Your risk tolerance;
  • Age;
  • Health;
  • Family situations (no kids, expecting kids, older kids, pets, etc.);
  • Investment preferences;
  • Location preferences (nomad/stay-at-home/frequent traveler); and/or
  • Housing preferences (rent/buy).

Some exit strategy examples

Here are some random examples of exit strategies, for various investments and stages of life

  • Index funds; depending on your age, expenses and market conditions, sell one or more year’s equivalent of expenses to capture capital gains. Transfer into bonds to have a stead pot of money to draw from for several years of worry free living. The selection of the number of years you transfer into bonds can depend on how close you think you are towards or from a major market correction (or your age);
  • Keep your rental property in tiptop conditions, so that when a tenant moves out you can sell for a good price on the open market. Or, see if you tenant is willing to buy from you (could save realtor fee’s). Before you sell, decide if and how, you want to reinvest the proceeds (dividend shares, bonds, personal loans, business loans, etc.); or,
  • In case you are older and want to limit inheritance taxes, start selling or transferring ownership of dividend growth stocks to your children, family or charity (e.g. “estate planning”). Same applies to your primary property: sell to you children and rent it back from them for your last few years on this planet (saves lots in inheritance taxes!).

If you have more suggestions, please feel free to leave us some comments!

Career exit strategy

Exit Strategy: The career

Exit Strategy: The career

Why an exit strategy?

You never know how life is going to change, unfortunate things happen, so leaving the work force (or changing careers) should be done amicably. Even when you have a horrible boss and cannot wait to never see him or her ever again, the recommendation is to finish off professionally. It’s often a small world, and it could make a difference! References can really aid you in the long run, even outside your current career path.

That being said, handing in the resignation letter is relatively easy. How to do write it and what you are going to do afterwards can be less straight forward. Its needs a plan, it needs an exit strategy.

Planning and an example

Depending on what you want to do after your current career, timely commencement of your planning could be important. Take our case, I (Mr. CF) really want to stop working my current day job and pursue a part-time business during (partial) FI. However, we also would like to take a 9 week road trip in 2018 before Miss CF will have to go to school. And we “need” to replace the current kitchen (it’s about 25-30 years old and it is at its end-of-operational-life phase).

The business will not be expensive to commence, but will take time to develop. An early start is very useful here to kick-start this side project. The road trip in 2017 will be done somewhat frugal, but will still cost a fair bit of money. The renovation job I’m actually looking forward to. It will be a combination of me and a contractor attacking this one. But despite my involvement, it still will cost a large sum of money, as we will also enlarge the kitchen by re-routing the staircase and demolishing an old bathroom. The latter is already replaced by a new one, but the old one is now taking up precious (future kitchen) space.

In short, if it were just the new business, I would probably quite once my one year contract expires in November. But due to the extra expenses coming, I hope to get a contract extension and work about 4 more months to offset some of these anticipated expenses. In short, it’s probably good that we considered this about 15-18 months in advance and have some options to play with.

If you wonder what Mrs. CF will be doing, she will likely continue her career that the current company (but you never know!). Her exit strategy will be next.

What could you consider?

Some of the things you may want to consider:

  • When you are FI, how solid are your finances? Can you survive a few years in a downward market (e.g. you FI start date is at the worst possible time)? Do you have a back-up plan (e.g. go back to work)? If not, perhaps you need to continue a bit longer, or find something part-time.
  • If you are not FI, how long are you planning to not work (e.g. take a sabbatical)? Or, do you want to already have a new job before you hand in your notice? Or do you want to go part-time?
  • When you are considering a career switch, do you need education? Can you potentially get some at your current employer? Or do you need education to commence the new career?
  • In case you are going to start your own business. Do you have sufficient knowledge? Can you perhaps do an internship or other training to give your new business a flying start and also make sure it is successful. Can other bloggers/entrepreneurs help you? It could be a smart thing to reach out.

In some cases you will find it is better to extent your career a bit to get some extra fun money, or renovation funds, or an emergency fund. Perhaps it also provides you with startup money for a hobby project or new business. On the other hand, if you really do not like your job and it makes your miserable, you could get out early, knowing that you have to get some temporary work to fill the financial gap. Potentially making a part time FI situation for yourself. The options are endless, but you need an exit strategy to make the most sensible decision!

The moral of today’s story is: always have a backup plan. Consider your exit strategy!

Do you have exit strategies? If so, let us know what they are and why you have them. What where your considerations?

 

Monthly Dividend Update

February is traditionally a slow month. Even though we have many monthy dividend payers, February is still not very exciting. But than again, this February 2017 Dividend Update is still pretty much positive due to the growth from last year.

We also purchased additional shares this month, which include:

  • 100 shares of RDSA; and,
  • Tons of DRIP shares including AAR.UN, CJR.B, PLZ.UN (which also raised it’s dividend!), CIX and several more

February Dividends

When we added up all the deposits into the bank accounts (and corrected for exchange rates), we received almost €342. That is a very respectable 59% YOY increase.

February 2017 Dividend Income

February 2017 Dividend Income

We also made a new graph showing the yearly dividend totals for 2015 and 2016, and a year-to-date dividend total for 2017. In the first 2 months for 2017 we already received more dividends than for the total 5 months of 2015. Now that is heading in the right direction! Granted, we only started with dividend growth investing in 2015. We sold all our RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) held ETF’s and started analysing and investing those funds into dividend stocks.

Yearly Dividend Totals

Yearly Dividend Totals

Dividend Stock Overview

Our dividend portfolio now contains 45 companies with a total of 10.699 shares and looks like this (up 3.701 shares from a year ago):

February 2017 Dividend Stock Overview

February 2017 Dividend Stock Overview

Dividend Sector Breakdown

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

February 2017 Dividend Stock Sector Allocation

February 2017 Dividend Stock Sector Allocation

How was your Febraury from a dividend perspective? Was it also a slow month for you?

February Finances

It is Savings Rate time! We love the month end overviews, great to see how our finances are shaped by life (the good and the bad). For February our finances were affected by:

  • We received our regular incomes, but Mrs CF also received her year-end bonus and salary raise (retroactive from January 1). In short, it was a stellar month from an income perspective, almost as good as the November and December income!;
  • The crowdfunding income was back to “normal”, after last month’s surprise income, with about €188 in deposits;
  • Living and healthcare spending was low this month due to no major (maintenance) bills, insurance or taxes to be paid (total expenses were about €800). That being said, there is a €1600+ bill waiting for May with property tax, waste removal an sewage for our unit and two rental units. But we will delay paying until the last moment (May is also vacation allowance payment month, so that will help pay this massive bill);
  • The “new” transport costs are in line with expectations. But fuel still hurts with a total expense of €175.51 (fuelling up three times);
  • Grocery costs were again lower than normal this month, but this is partially the result of Miss CF being potty trained. Saves a lot in wipes and diapers! Total spend was about €257;
  • The kid category was also stable, we paid for daycare fees (net fees are €950!) and some arts and crafts supplies (read paper and pencils);
  • Travel and Leisure included some activities with Miss CF (more skating ) in combination with a birthday gift; and,
  • Other items included new work shoes for Mrs CF (€55), cost for the Meetup in Antwerp (€50) and about €90 in expenses for various small items including new printer cartridges.

February Savings Rate 

The savings rate for the month of February end up being 72.8%, that’s an insane month! Thank you employer for that nice bonus. We will put it to good use (read: it will be invested wisely). We are a very happy family 🙂

February 2017 Savings Rate

February 2017 Savings Rate

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

 

February 2017 Expenses Breakdown

February 2017 Expenses Breakdown

 

How was your Savings Rate for February? Any uncommon/surprising expenses or incomes?

The month is almost over, so it’s time to for what I like doing most: calculating how much money we earned this month. Passive income that is of course! Without further ado, here is the Real Estate Report – February 2017.

Rental Income

It was another good month with no vacancies and all rents paid on time. Love it!

February 2017 - Real Estate Income

February 2017 – Real Estate Income

Rental Expenses

Expenses were a bit lower than anticipated as the maintenance and mechanical ventilation installation works were not able to be completed this month. Primary reason for that is that the economy is doing rather well in the Netherlands. In short, more people are spending money and contractors are busy. This was no different for our own contractor. However, we have (finally) been able to schedule the work for March 1. Mr CF will be helping out to keep the costs in reign.

Other expenses for the month are:

  • Interest costs (mortgage and loan)
  • Insurance costs
  • Property management costs
February 2017 - Real Estate Expenses

February 2017 – Real Estate Expenses

Real Estate Report – Overview

We made a total of €2.275 in net rental income for the month of February (granted, before taxes!). Our net-cashflow is a bit lower due to the mortgage payment (about €410 lower to be exact).

February 2017 - Real Estate Overview

February 2017 – Real Estate Overview

As noted above, we will be doing the mechanical ventilation installation in early March. But still need to find a date to install the moisture barrier within the outside wall. Perhaps in combination with the installation of a drainage system to keep groundwater levels down. It will depend on how much time our contractor will have for us within his busy schedule. But once the mechanical ventilation is installed, the moisture issues should already be reduced significantly.

We also still need to start work on the renovation of the outside walls for two of our properties. Have not had time to start the requests for quotation yet.

Do you have real estate? If so, how was your month? If not, are you tempted after seeing this report?

Insurance products can be a great thing. Especially when mother nature decides to cause storm damage to your house 🙁

Winter Storm

Last Thursday we had a winter storm in the Netherlands (and other parts of western Europe). It was not as bad a forecasted, but winds did whip up to over 100km/h (+60mph). During the evening we heard something fall outside, but when looking out the windows we saw our neighbour/tenant walking around and loading her car. She did not seem to be phased, so we figured it was her or stuff she was moving around. We did not investigate any further.

But later that night, the roof was a lot noisier than normal during high winds. It kept us up for quite a few hours until the storm died down later that night. This was something we had to address at some point, but it turned out that we had to do this a bit sooner than expected.

Storm Damage

This morning (Saturday) we finally had some time to go into the yard and clean it up from all the stuff that had blown in. To our surprise we found one shingle too! Turns out we actually have a hole in our roof. Not good.

Storm Damage - Smash up shingle

Storm Damage – Smash up shingle (left) and new shingle (right)

Storm Damage - hole in roof

Storm damage – we have a hole in our roof!

 

This would all not be too bad, if it was not for the weather forecast for the coming week. So we quickly called the insurance support centre to report the damage. They have now scheduled an emergency repair for this weekend. Been on the phone with several parties already, hopefully they find a spot to help us out. Because, as you can imagine, we are not the only ones with roof damage at this time.

Rain

Weather forecast – lots of rain…

Financial Damage

Considering the work is not actually completed at this stage, the final bill is unclear. However, the insurance policy states a deductible of €250 for damage other than damage by Fire. The work itself is very limited, but due to inaccessibility the final bill will likely still be around the deductible. Ah well, such is life.

March 3 update:

The roof finally got fixed this morning. They also bolted down an additional row of shingles to prevent this from happening again. Curious to see what the bill is going to look like! Hope it will be just the deductible of €250.

We are doing another historical review today, after we reviewed our historical savings rates earlier this week. However, this time we will be looking at the development of our income assets. We will look at the historical return on investment on those assets. And, in addition, we will also be looking at the return on investment on our total net worth.

Historical Income Asset Allocation

When we were doing the historical data evaluations for the savings rates, we obviously did more than just that. It was a great time to review most of our historical developments. it took at bit of time to get to this stage, but it is interesting and fun to see the (financial) developments match with life decision we made in the past.

Same as with the saving rates, data up to 2010 is a “best guess” based on income/tax statements, (partial) excel overviews of expenses and receipts from all kinds of purchases. As of 2011 the data is very accurate as we have been keeping track of our finances in detail. The result looks a follows:

Historical Income Asset Allocation

2006-2016 Income Asset Allocation

Income Asset Allocation History

We were able to reconstruct our finances back to 2006, which is when Mr CF got his first job out of University. The first few years we earned quite a bit of money so our savings rate was high. Unfortunately we did not invest much into the stock market at that time, only Mr CF had some ETF’s. This was a financial legacy from his parents (a gift when I turned 18, the fund were to be used for school/housing/etc.).

As interest rates were pretty good at that time, we deposited most of our money in “Deposito’s”, which are savings accounts with fixed interest rates for fixed durations. We got around 3.5-4.5% per year on most of these accounts (which is amazing compared to these days).  For the period between 2006 and 2009, we did not own a house (were renting at that time to remain flexible in our living locations). The percentage of our income producing assets was therefore high, but did not really grow organically over time due to a lack of real estate of stock market exposure.

As of 2010 we sunk pretty much all our money into a McMansion (and cars/motorcycles). The drop in income producing assets is shocking to say the least! But we simply did not know any better at that time. Fortunately, we started with company pension plans and our income producing assets slowly grew again between 2010 and 2013.

The Income Asset Turn-Around Years

In 2014 we had our financial epiphany and started our turn-around. We withdraw money from out mortgage to purchase two rental properties that year. Significantly improving the amount of income producing assets.

We sold our McMansion in 2015, investing the money we got out of our house into our pension accounts (maxing our the RRSP’s), as well as unregistered investment accounts/crowdfunding. This process was slow and steady for about a year and a half. Some of the money “left” was used for the purchase of our home and associated rental properties in 2016. The resulting jump in income assets is pretty impressive! Not only in percentage, but also in return on investment which we will be looking at next.

Return on Investment – Income Assets

Due to a lack of data, we were not able to reconstruct the return on investment on income producing assets before 2014. But it is safe to say that percentages would have hovered around 2.0-4.5% for the period 2006-2010. Considering we did not have any stocks during the crisis in 2008 and 2009, we never actually “lost” any money. We therefore likely also did not see any negative returns on income producing assets either. For the period 2011-2013 they would have probably been between 4-6% considering we primarily held ETF’s within our RRSP accounts and the market was slowly recovering.

What we do know is the return on investment as of 2014 till now. Because our investment strategy is very diverse, and because of exchange rate variations (which were positive for us), the return on investment is actually rather good. Especially for 2014, when the market went up nicely and exchange rates shifted in our favour. The ROI for 2015 and 2016 is still very good due to climbing markets, but is dropping somewhat due to our real estate investments. The latter is however providing good cash-flow results, which is what we prefer.

We calculate Return on Investment on Income Assets (IA) as follows:

((Net Worth this year – Net Worth previous year) – Invested Funds ) / IA (previous year)

The results are as follows:

2014-2016 ROI Income Assets

Historical Return on Investment of Income Assets

Return on Investment – Overall

We also calculated our Return on Investment on All Assets (i.e. our Net Worth), which we did as follows:

((Net Worth this year – Net Worth previous year) – Invested Funds ) / Net Worth previous year

This is rough measure to figure out how well you have been doing with your money over time. For example, when you buy a big house, cars or go on expensive holidays. Your overall assets will decline (directly or over time) due to expenses and/or depreciation. However, if you are in an wanted area, your house may actually increase in value and add to your net worth. In our case, our home did increase in value, but this was offset by money we spend on the yard and basement development.

Return on Investment - All Assets

Our historical return on investment on our net worth

As noted prior, we purchased our house, cars and motorcycles in 2009 and 2010. This lead to a massive drop in our Return on Investment on our overall assets. However, this was not the only reason, the drop in 2009 (and the rise in 2011) were actually also significantly affected by fluctuating exchange rates.

That beign said, we are just very happy to see that since 2011 we have been doing well and our net worth is increasing steadily. This is partially caused by an bull market and partially by our FIRE revelations and decisions. We are working hard to keep the percentages as high as we can going forward.

Return on Investment – Yearly Average

Now this is the one that hurts the most. When looking at our total net earnings over the years (so income minus expenses) and compare that to our net worth at the end of 2016, you can calculate the average yearly Return on Investment (on all assets). In this case ours was……just 2.9%. We barely kept up with inflation (could be worse, we could have lost money)!

But if we now only look at the last three years (after we discovered FIRE and rearranged our finances), it’s a more respectable 8.7% yearly average. For two Duchies just winging it, that’s pretty decent. And it even included some rookie investment mistakes. We are a very happy couple 🙂

How did you do over the years, do you know your return on investment on your income assets?

 

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

Historical Savings Rates

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

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

Historical Savings Rates

Historical Savings Rates from Team CF between 2006 and 2016

A Bit of Team CF Life History

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

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

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

Saving Rate Developments over the Years

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

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

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

The Transition Years

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

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

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

The Future?

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

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

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

January 2017 Cheesy Index

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

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

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

Exchange Rates

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

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

 

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

The Missing Windshield

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

Car Scare

Car Scare

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

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

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

Car Scare

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

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

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

Good News!

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

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

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

Monthly Dividend Overview

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

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

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

January Dividends

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

Dividend Stock Overview

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

Dividend Sector Breakdown

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

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

Antwerp Meetup

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

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

January Finances

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

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

January Savings Rate 

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

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

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

Feeling Like a Loser…..

Net Worth

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

Loser.....

Loser…..

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

Feeling a bit like a loser…

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

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

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

Patience is a virtue

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

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

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

Rental Income

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

Rental Expenses

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

Other expenses for the month are:

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

Real Estate Report – Overview

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

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

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