Financial Freedom Sloth

achieving financial freedom one lazy step at a time

Monthly expense report: September

Wauw, already half way octobre and I still need to post my September expense report. I am really doing my sloth reputation honor this month.

Personal account:

Income: 2 036,42 euro

Expenses: 1 578,72 euro

Savings: 457,70 euro or 22,48%

Again a bit over 1 500 euro in spending. The overspend had one and only one reason: our holiday in lanzarote. Let me tell you, Lanzarote is not the cheapest place to go on holiday to. Could we have made it a more frugal holiday: definitely yes (think 55 euro submarine trip). Did I feel like it: nope! Honestly, I go on holiday so infrequently (this was my second holiday in 8 years) that being frugal while on holiday just isn’t very high on my to do list. It is at home, in Belgium that the biggest gains are to be made. And since I am lazy it is best to concentrate the few efforts I do there. Maximum gain for minimal effort is my motto.

The joint bank account:

Income: 2 608 euro

Expenses: 2 149 euro

Savings: 459 euro

We didn’t use the joint account to pay for anything during our holiday. It didn’t make that much of an impact on our joint spending as all fix costs off course remained.

Meal tickets only for the one month were 112 euro.

So total income 2 036,42 + 56 euro = 2 092,42
Total savings 457,70 + 229,50 euro= 687,20 euro which gives me a total savings rate of 32,8%

Special circumstance investing – september update

Wow, one month without a post. Some bloggers have the decency of warning their readers beforehand, me, not so much …

What did I do

Well I rolled my Ahold Delhaize puts to november. Same strike price. I might still walk a way with a profit from this one. The market is really overreaction for this one. It just shows how tight the nerves are …

AB inbev is still doing fine and my leveraged construction can now take a 20% drop without me losing any profit on it! Despite all this great news I am still planning on further deleverage. No more new option writing and once the present leveraged construction is unwound no more leverage (except for the occasional day trading).

Day trading in September brought in 800 USD. Day trading in this case isn’t the correct word. I bought 100 CfD’s on Google on the first of September and then Google went down and kept going down. I have been there before and it is one of the reasons why I don’t trade when it is near an all time high. At 955,40 USD it was my conviction it would eventually go higher. High enough to recoup the financing fees and make a profit. I also had stuff to do in the evening like preparing a big bbq for the 9th September (and thus needing to clean up the garden), job hunting and preparing for my two week holiday in Lanzarote. It was nice to have a break from day trading in the evening en just do practical stuff. Time proved me right so while vacationing in Lanzarote I put in a sell order at 969 USD. When not filled I lowered it to 965,50 USD for the next day and while driving to the vulcano on Lanzarote on the 29th September the order got filled at a price of 966,017 USD. Google actually shot up a lot more that day so I could have made more money but hey, I was on a holiday. Actually, holding the position would have made me a lot more. But I just didn’t want another leveraged position during my holiday. Day trading is an extra for me so I will take what I can and try not to be bothered to much by the money I leave on the table.

Before going on holiday I also bought 10 puts on UVXY, expiration 01/2019 for 11,75 USD a piece. I have a nice profit on them and probably will sell them on Monday.

Add the nice rise of Berkshire Hathaway to the above and my net worth reached a new all time high. And that while I was vacationing and doing absolutely nothing productive with my time. Gentleman of leisure indeed!

The girlfriends portfolio

Here too I rolled her Ahold Delhaize puts (and in my parents portfolio).

Turns out I kinda miscalculated here free cash position last month and should not have done the UVXY puts in August so I didn’t enter a new trade in her account this time. Once the puts are gone I will move agressively into it.

Since Google dropped after I bought my CfD’s and I had a strong conviction they would go up I bought 100 CfD’s in the girlfriends portfolio to. Bought at 954,90 USD and sold at 968,99 USD (I never lowered her sell order as I did on mine). So she actually made more money on this trade then I did! After financing fees a cool 1 150 USD was added to her account.

I usually only day trade in my portfolio as switching between accounts is a bit of a bother. But on occasion I do enter a trade in the girlfriends portfolio also. It is so random and few I don’t even bother keeping score. But up to now, all have been profitable.

Why deleveraging and moving aggressively into UVXY puts

Three reasons

– prices are high for most stocks and in the case of a correction/crash even cheap or moderately priced stocks will drop in price

– I hate cash

– I suck in market timing

Prices are high, but that doesn’t mean they can not go higher. I also know that timing the market is a fools game. So I keep the stock I already have.

But I prefer to buy my shares when they are cheap and there isn’t a lot of cheap out there. Not buying stock and building up the cash should be the logical way then. But I hate cash, I want my money to work hard for me so I can be lazy! Enter UVXY puts. UVXY is a play on volatility so not linked to the high values of stock. And it should give me a minimum return of 10% a year.

So I am positioning myself that:

– if there is no crash I have the growth of Berkshire Hathaway and the return on my UVXY puts investments. My average return should still beat the market.

– if there is a crash: Buffett can finale deploy his 100 billion cash reserve, insuring further rise in Berkshire share price. I too have some nice cash standing at the sidelines, ready to buy good stock at cheap prices. Loses should be less then the market average and gains after the correction should be a lot bigger than the market average.

Heads I win, tails I also win.

The cost for this is the extra profit I could have made by some leveraged positions. But I no longer feel these extra profits justify the extra risk I am running. There is a time to be greedy and this isn’t the time.

 

Monthly expense report: August

August has been a busy month. Working, swimming, day trading, job hunting, birthday, preparations for a 20+ persons BBQ in our orchard … Let’s see the impact on our finances.

Personal account:

Income: 2 320,29 euro

Expenses:  1 557,35 euro

Savings: 762,94 or 32,8%

A bit higher income as it was my birthday. Since I am not accepting any financial help from the parents in the home renovations (I would find it a bit strange since I have a stash of over 250.000 euro)  my parents have resorted to a guerilla-style of money giving. Any time they have an excuse to give me (or the girlfriend!) money they do it. And they have been increasing the amounts too! Sooner or later I will need to have a talk with the parents about this and either let them pay for the remaining renovations or put a stop to this monetary guerilla-warfare. It’s starting to get a bit ridiculous!

I only count day trading income when I actually transfer it to my personal account so that explains why my day trading profits of 800 USD do not show up here.

Just a little bit over the 1 500 euro mark on the expenses. I have only myself to blame as I spend 93 euro buying graphic novels. Back when I was a student I used to be a pretty big graphic novel fan. One of my favorite pass times was browsing the new arrivals in different comic book shops. I still enjoy it and had a few new issues on my wish list for some time now. First time ordering it on line as I just didn’t have the time to go visit a shop. And isn’t that a sad statement?

The joint bank account

Income: 2 672 euro

Expenses: 2 752,66 euro

Savings: -80,66 euro

An expensive month due to one reason: home and fire insurance of 854 euro. Yes, I need to look into it. But first I need to still check if we can transfer/renegotiate our mortgage. And then afterwards go shop around for better insurance. On the other hand, we do have a big house and those things apparently take square meters into account …

We also had one restaurant visit to enjoy one of Belgium’s best national dishes: mussels and fries with a cold beer!

Income was also higher due to finally getting the meal ticket situation sorted out. Finally got my hands on the card where three months of accumulated meal tickets was waiting: 472 euro of extra disposable money!! (In Belgium companies can give their employees meal tickets. A fiscally interesting way since this is not taxed or something. But my present company worked with a provider of which I no longer had a card. They first send the card to their office in Ghent , then to their office in Antwerp and finally to the Brussels office. I then needed to find the time to go get the card because it is a form of compensation so papers needed to be signed and identity verified, sigh!).

The meal vouchers also present me with a bit of a problem. How do I count it? I get them as income but they go directly to our joint expenses as a bit of an extra. We both pay 1 200 euro into the joint account, I give whatever meal voucher I get and the girlfriend pays for the cat food. We try to divide stuff 50/50 but neither of us want to start calculating it down to the last euro so we just agreed upon this (the girlfriend did get the better part of the deal, damn her and her womanly ways!! 😉 )But it is income that we do spend.

I think I will add half of it to my income. So doing that and adding half of the 80,66 euro deficit to my expenses gives me a savings rate of 28%.

Special circumstance investing – august update

As mentioned here I need to deleverage. So option writing is out for the time being. The put option on ADM at strike 40 USD expired out of the money so that is some leverage gone.

What did  I do

Since I still want to be finished with the renovation as soon as possible and options were out of the question I doubled down on day trading. Total day trading income for August was 800 USD. The highest since I am back at work! I’ll be on holiday for part of September and October so I do not expect to repeat this any time soon.

For the remaining puts I have: AB Inbev is doing fine but Ahold Delhaize will need to be rolled to a further date. The market decided to behave like an idiot and send the stock a lot lower because Amazon completed the takeover of  Whole Foods and reduced some prices (actually brought them in line with the competition as Whole foods had the reputation of being expensive). This will work itself out over the next couple of months and I expect Ahold Delhaize to regain most of this drop. It is one of the reasons I chose companies with predictable cash flows to write puts on. Even if the market is stupid, a few quarters of the same predictable cash flow gushing in usually fixes that ..

The only reason why it annoys me is because I now want to get rid of all options and even build up my cash further. The reason for this is UVXY but since I did the trade in the girlfriends portfolio I’ll explain it there. It’s going to be a long read so let’s put on some tunes shall we?

 

The girlfriends portfolio

So, I had mentioned I would probably move to the girlfriends portfolio to play with puts on UVXY. True to my word on 9 August I bought 3 puts on UVXY at strike 20 USD and paid 10,25 USD for it.

I wanted to do the same trade in my portfolio but I didn’t get assigned on the 9th. After that the price of UVXY started going up. Logic would dictate the price of the put to go down. But it didn’t. It actually went up! The reason for this is that UVXY is a play on volatility and most people use the puts to do short term gambles on sharp rise (or drops) in volatility. So a lot of people flooded into this product. Which drove up the price of the puts even if they should have dropped! We had an interesting ‘talk’ about it in the comment section of this and this post.

I do recognize stupidity when I see it. I also like to profit from said stupidity so I myself did not buy any puts. I did sell the girlfriends puts on 15 august at 11,30 USD maxing almost 10% profit (300 USD) in less than a week.

Bottom line for UVXY is that it is an absolutely crap product, designed with short term gamblers in mind (read that explication people, so cool!). It is constructed in such a way that over time the house always wins (it will lose value over time, so Proshares who created it wins). The thing is, there is one way you can make a consistent profit on it it! And Velociraptor discovered that way. By buying long term puts (as I have done now two times) you put yourself more or less in the same position as the house. And over time you should profit of it. It can take several months, in rare cases even more than a year. Or it can take less than a week. But I am now convinced that a 10% annual profit, at the least, should be possible with this puts on this product.

Liquidity remains an issue since to play it correctly you buy the puts when the gambling masses are not interested in the product. But Velociraptor is able to put more than 20.000 USD in it. So I am now freeing up as much cash as I can and see if I can do this too!

Finally a good reason to talk to the parents and transfer some of their non working cash parked on savings accounts to their Lynx account!

Made it all the way to the end? Great! If it all seems a bit much

just remember, that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the ‘Milky Way’.

Reduce spending with cashback sites

I am very selfishly putting more effort in finding a new job closer by home. And also trying to do a bit more day trading (daddy needs a new PC!). So expect fewer posts at least until I no longer waste three hours per day going to Brussels and back.

So just a quick post about cashback sites. That are sites whom give you back e certain percentage of your purchase at affiliated web shops.

We have been using ebuyclub for some months now (if we do not forget). It won’t be hundreds of euros we will be getting back this way (we just don’t spend enough on line for that). But every little thing helps. If you want to check it out, use code HNK2M6P at registration and we will get 5 euro and you three euro 😉

Qassa is another cashback site who has a few affiliated shops ebuyclub does not have. So we will try that platform the next time we shop at one of their sites.

And to make up for my lack of posts a little reading tip. Lackingambition is a no longer active blog (so it doesn’t show up in blogrolls a lot) who has some of the best posts on frugal living and the mustachian way of living I have ever read. Well worth going through his archives!

Adventures in day trading

I already talked about how I ended up at Lynx here. Lynx offered a multitude of new possibilities for me and in my first post about how I was going to use these I also mentioned day trading.

I had this to say about it:

With the SAB MILLER position active and me not needing to work at the time I grew bored. So I tried my hand at day trading. Technically it was day trading because I was buying and selling on the same day. But actually I had identified some stock that was cheap and I wanted to buy some. I just didn’t feel too comfortable with already having a 200.000 GBP leveraged position so as soon as I made some profit I closed the position (and thus the extra leverage). I practiced a bit with Berkshire Hathaway and Coca cola. And then when Google went down to 730 USD I really had some fun with it. Real day trading is off course have dozens or even hundreds of trades and playing both an uptrend and downtrend in stock price. I just bought stock I thought was cheap and then sold with a small profit. Sometimes I only did 1 or 2 of these trades, and some days 6 or 8. I found it to be way to much work and also too much stress but I did make around 2.500 USD in profits from it (another 1% added to the stash). But it would have been much more profitable to just buy Google at 730 USD, keep it for a few months and then sell it around 780 USD. I just wasn’t very comfortable with that amount of leverage at that time.

I stopped day trading when I started working again but then my temporary contract ended at the end of January. Since I once again had a leveraged construction at 2x leverage in my portfolio I decided to start day trading again.

Let’s do it again

My approach remained the same. So I chose google again to trade in.

The reasons for this is that I believe in the long term prospects of google (by which I mean the stock price should go up over time) and it usually has enough volatility during the day to make a small profit of at least a 100 USD of it with a trade.

I usually buy 100 CfD’s on Google. This costs me 5 USD in fees as that is the minimum fee Lynx charges. Selling will cost me another 5 USD so Google needs to go up 0,10 USD for me to break even. I usually try to make 100 USD on a trade. So google needs to move 1,10 USD for this to happen. This is about 0.0011%. So changes of this happening are pretty good.

Pretty good doesn’t mean guaranteed. Last Thursday would have been a bad day to try to day trade in google.

One of my own rules is that really bad days I stay away. Yes, even Thursday there would have been 2 or three points (red arrows) where a quick in and out hopping could have made some money but chances of picking the exact right time are too low to risk it.

I also do not trade when the stock is at an all-time high price (though I broke that rule to buy just below 1000 USD and then sell just above 1000 USD just so I could say I traded Google went it went over the 1000 USD share price. I now, stupid. Especially because nobody but me cares about something like that…). I also do not trade when the stock is at a high for that day.

What do I trade? Little drops in the stock.

15 August would have been a good day to trade.

There are 4 moments where I might have traded. We had a friend over so I didn’t go and sit behind the PC but I did want to show off a little bit so late in the afternoon I did log in. I was just in time for the last moment and opened a position. The upward movement wasn’t as strong as I thought it would be (should have sold at the first black arrow) so I left some money on the table but in the end was able to close the position with a net profit of 50 USD (sold somewhere around the second black arrow).

The trick is off course to identify that the dip is in fact a dip and not the beginning of a big downward movement. Either I have been lucky so far or I kinda have a ‘feel’ for it. But I have also closed positions at no profit or only 5 or 8 USD profit because the upward movement I thought would happen just didn’t materialize. I have had Google do nothing but go down after I open a position. Lucky for me this happened at prize points where I didn’t mind holding Google. So my day trade position then became a multi-day or in two occasions even multi-week position until Google rebound so I could exit the position at a profit. It is why I do not day trade when Google is at (or near) an all-time high (with the one exception, I knew it would cross the 1000 USD mark). Let’s just say I am pretty happy with the last drop in Google price. It is now at a level I feel comfortable trading it again.

As you just read there is nothing sophisticated or glamorous about it. But it is some extra money on a regular basis. Last year I made around 2.500 USD (in a couple of months) and this year I am around 3.250 USD (the price of the Vespa!). It is a little bit extra I now do in an effort to get the home renovations done quicker. My estimate is that the remaining home renovation will take around 50.000 euro. The girlfriend and me can save around 10.000 euro a year so these should take 5 years to  complete. If I make an additional 10.000 euro by day trading in the next 4 years well that is one year quicker that our house is finished. Since I do not want to retire before the renovations are done this could shave off a full year of me working!

I can feel my mind slipping

Before I started day trading I had read it is mostly a mental game and I can confirm it is.

First and all, you need to be able to stare at the price of a stock for hours. It literally is looking at a screen. So you have to be able to do that (luckily I have had lots of training at my previous jobs for this). And then you have to fight the urge to open a position. Believe me, this is hard! That is why you are sitting there after all! And the longer you sit there, the more you want to enter a trade.

Then when you do enter a trade there are nerves. Because your timing is never perfect. Meaning you buy in a dip, but the dip continues … And every 0.1 USD drop is costing you 10 USD. You are sitting there thinking: I should have waited a bit longer! I am leaving money on the table!!

Then the stock goes up. Oef, yes, it was a dip, yes I am going to make money here!

Then it goes down a bit again. We are talking cents here, cents on a 925 USD stock. So off course it is moving up and down. I always does that but what you need to determine here is: is the dip over and will it go higher or is the dip not over yet? Is this a little upward bounce before going down a lot more? How strong is the upward movement?

In all honesty, sometimes I exit the trade just in time before it drops another dollar. In those cases I feel pretty smart. But sometimes I get out with 5 or 10 USD profit thinking the stock will go down again but then it starts a strong upward movement, going up 2 or 3 dollar. Which means I just missed 300 USD profits. I feel pretty stupid then.

You need to leave your emotions at home. But you also need to be able to not give a fuck about the fact you missed profit. That is hard, because you are there, sitting behind the computer to make a 100 or 200 USD. You are thinking 10 cents movement = 10 USD. And since your timing is never going to be perfect you will always miss profits. So even if you know you missed some profit. Even if some part of your brain is screaming: nice going dimwit, you just missed 80 USD another part of your brain must scream back and say fuck it, I made some profit and I will continu to make profits, shut up other part of the brain! And that second part of your brain needs to win the shouting match! So you can continue trading and open a new position. And then the entire circus starts again. As you can read, it goes from utterly boring to utterly nerve wrecking.

Why do I do it then?

well, I seem to be decent at it. Within the rules I made for myself I am capable of making a little bit of profit. I don’t find it a pleasant activity to do but the 3.250 USD of profit so far equals 1,5 months of working in Brussels. Honestly, I prefer the day trading over the going to work. It takes less effort, and I don’t need to go to Brussels for it.

It also helps that it is a little extra on the side. I do not do it a lot. As a day job  I think it would be very exhausting. A little bit left and right is very doable. Sometimes I plan on doing some trading one evening and then when the time comes I don’t feel like it, so I don’t. Or the stock doesn’t move right so I stop after an hour. When I was unemployed I put in longer sessions. But even then, sometimes I made a nice profit in the first two hours so I just stopped for the rest of the day (or even week) and was off to do something a lot more fun than staring at a screen for hours.

So for the time being I am going to continue doing it. Hopefully get another 10.000 USD in profits from it over time so I can finish renovating the house one year earlier …

 

 

Let the beat control your body

If there is one area where the effects of digitization have been felt the most it is music. And for the most this has been a positive. New things have become possible and almost all music is now available everywhere at a zero to low cost. Especially for the more frugal inclined this has been a big change.

When I was younger portable music meant a Walkman with cassettes (later followed by the discman and cd’s). Getting a new album meant going to a shop and actually buying it. It took time, effort and money. The equivalent now would be to buy it online. The hour it took to go back and forth to the shop is now 2 minutes online and the cost has gone down. But does anybody still buy albums? The internet has given us so many new possibilities that music habits are fundamentally changing and can differ immensely from one person to another one.

Owning it

Sure, there is the ‘old school’ approach where you still own the music you listen to. Owning it now means it is some file on your computer and ‘carrying it with you’ is putting that file on your phone (although I still have a few friends who use a dedicated mp3 player). A hybrid approach is where you upload the songs you already own. Some use dropbox (or another cloud storage service for it) for this, but Google music lets you upload up to 5.000 of your own songs for free (without the need to use their paying streaming service). This can be handy for those who do not have enough memory on their phone (but be careful about data consumption in this case). Some go as far as running their own little network connected storage so they have control over it. Personally I am running Plex on a Synology NAS. But I have been thinking about tinkering with a raspberry Pi and turning one into an internet connected music server for the girlfriend. This is especially handy for people who have A LOT of music but for whom a NAS might be overkill.

Streaming it

This is still you owning the music. Owning music almost feels like an outdated concept nowadays. There are a ton of streaming services now who give you access to millions of songs for a monthly fee. For us frugal types there is the free version of Spotify. Youtube also contains millions of songs but that is not a very handy platform if you still look at music from an song – album point of view.

For me, Youtube is a lot better if you are interested in DJ sets and performances at festivals. Forget listening to a song or an album. Thanks to the internet you can now listen (and watch in the case of Youtube) your favorite artist perform at a concert/festival on the other side of the planet!

For this Soundcloud and mixcloud are veritable treasure troves where the discovery of one great DJ leads to discovering other DJ’s, which in turn leads to a gazillion hours of music to listen to.

Youtube, Soundcloud and Mixcloud are completely free at the moment. Even if there was a magical piece of software that is able to select only the music you love on these platforms, you probably would need several lifetimes to listen to it all.

The way the sloth

If a passive approach is more your style the internet has you covered to. Most radiostations can now be accessed via the internet. Personally I prefer TuneIn as they also provide a wide selection of ‘web-only’ radiostations. Put in a few hours searching for radio stations that cater to your own personal taste and voila, free music for the rest of your life with zero effort at zero cost. Sloths all over the world: rejoice!

Staying connected

For people who are mobile all the day or do not have access to free WIFi at work, the scarlett Hi5 abo gives you 5 gb for a 15 euro monthly subscription and Mobile Vikings now offers the possibility to make your own subscription type where 15 euro will get you 4 gb of data and 50 min calling time. For those thinking of switching over to mobile vikings, send me a message and I’ll be able to earn a 15 euro referral fee 😉

Getting creative post FIRE

In the future VR technology will create additional new possibilities where it will be possible to ‘attend’ festivals at the other side of the planet from your own couch (free or for a low fee probably). But personally, once I am post FIRE, I am a lot more interested in a private version of the Tomorrowland Unite approach. Tommorrowland Unite is where they live stream performances from Boom Belgium to stages in different countries. Which means that if you have a projector, a screen and some decent speakers you can replicate this in the comfort of your own home/garden (you can of course select your own festival off choice as long as they have a decent live stream going. Or if they post sets on line after the festival you can do it a week later, thanks to internet time is starting to be a little bit flexible). The girlfriend already has her hart set on Awakenings – the home edition) …. Get some friends and some quality beers and you can have the ‘festival’-experience at a much lower price and with a hell of a lot more comfort (no dixie toilets!). The older you get, the more you appreciate the comforts of home and in case the title of this post didn’t give it away, I am a child of the nineties …

But some of us old geezers might have a few good tricks up our sleeves …

Back to work: a three month recap

I just got a phone call from the temp agency that placed me at my current job to ask how everything went. The classic ‘how is it going?’, ‘you like it?’ blablabla.

You could see it as a nice gesture or them checking that the temporary placement will lead to a fix contract which means a few more months of making a profit on me and then getting a bonus from my employer for finding such a good match without them having to do any additional work (but that might just be my cynical side).

I saw it as a sign to write this three month recap.

So the job. What can I say. Well, it’s work. And a steady paycheck that has done wonders for my cash position on my checking and savings account. I was down to 900 euro available cash when I started this job (another limit I tested).

I start to know enough so it isn’t as boring as the first month when I could only do the most simple tasks. But it’s still pretty boring work (long live podcasts!). Then again, I find most things pretty boring after a couple of months.

The co-workers are also pretty boring. Perhaps it is the job. I can imagine that doing this job for years and years on end could crush anybody’s spirit. It could be me. I like investing and options, reading weird stuff on line and classic trance (although dark wave horror synth and old school goa aren’t bad either) and I have got two pet pigs. It’s not easy to build a report with people if you have to lie about what you did on your three day weekend (Friday 21 st July was a holiday in Belgium). I mean, that Friday I did some day trading and sold a put on AB Inbev, earning about one month in wages in three hours. I am NOT going to say THAT to any of my co-workers! And I am not even going to start about Saturday … Basically, I am a weird dude. And my co-workers aren’t.

And the job is in Brussels. So that is a long commute. Leave home at 7:15, only back at 18:15 except when I go swimming. Those days I am only home at 20h. Which means that a lot of practical stuff needs to be crammed into the weekend. So you have to live a much more planned life. When can you do practical stuff A, B and C, When do you have time to see a friend or visit family? Do they have time in their schedule to see you … I don’t really care for having my life dictated by google calendar…

I should actually exercise more if I ever want a change of actually losing some weight (almost 5 months of swimming, 3 x 2 km a week and net result is I gained two kilo, hoping it’s muscles …). I should also put more time in meal planning AND preparing. Both things that would be a lot easier to do without the current job.

I don’t want this post to turn into a complain post. Truth is I am pretty happy with the job. The pay is decent and as far as the work goes, I have worked under much harsh conditions for many years in the past. The boss is pretty relaxed and does not micro-manage (I hate micromanagement). A decent job was also the final puzzle piece missing for my last five years leading to financial freedom. But even if I could transform this job in a ‘less than part time’ job 5 years from now, I would not want to keep doing this job.

Truth be told, I found live to be a whole lot more pleasant when I didn’t need to work or even when I did the temp job near Leuven (and that job and co-workers also were boring). The closer location saved me 2 hours in commute. Only one hour when I went with the bike, but I liked biking to work a lot. I found it to be pretty relaxing. I just had a lot more hours in the week where I had control over as where now my time from 7:15 till 18:15 is pretty much outside of my control.

So the plan is to stick with the current job, hoping the work from home option becomes available as soon as I have a fix contract. And that I can stretch it to 2 days a week. If working two days from home is not possible I’ll work full time for the first year of my fix contract and then ask for a 4/5th contract. This should give me an extra free day every week. If I go to Brussels via e-bike the remaining three days, my take home pay should stay the same as now. I can see me doing that arrangement for the remaining years I need to achieve financial freedom.

In the meantime I will start looking for a good job closer to home. This is going to take a lot of time. I will be looking for a job that is:

1)      Closer to home (30 min by Vespa of 1 hour by decent e-bike). Basically Leuven.

2)      about the same wage as my current wage

3)      in a field that actually interests me (finance, IT, entertainment)

4)      hopefully also a job I could transform into ‘less than part time’ once I have achieved financial freedom and I only need to earn the tax free sum of 7.400 euro.

I’ll settle for 1 + 2 + 3. But getting 4 would be nice.

Off course, this means that job hunting is one more practical thing I need to put in my google calendar …

Monthly expense report: July

I can’t believe another month has gone by. Been busy with fun and work. My to do list of things to read, watch, listen to, or just plain do (garden, house, car stuff) is getting longer by the week! Finance wise things are on track.

Personal account:

Income: 2 226,31 eur

Expenses: 1 490,40 eur

Savings: 735,91 euro or 33%

Once again below 1 500 euro, woohoo! Let’s hope I can keep it that way for the rest of the year. And it hasn’t been an uber frugal month either. Went to a festival and spend 40 euro there. Prepaid 15 euro for a ticket for another little festival and went to the Gentse feesten. So fun is definitely possible on this budget.

We even visited a restaurant for my mother’s birthday but that came out of the joint account. Let’s see how we did on that account.

The joint bank account:

Income: 2 631,13 euro

Expenses: 2 286,01 euro

Savings: 345,12 euro

A bit higher income here as I appear to have paid our road tax twice and we got a refund this month.

Adding half of that road tax return to my income, then adding half of the savings to my own savings and I get a savings rate of 35,6%!

All in all a good month. next month will be a bit more challenging as the home insurance of 850 euro landed on the 1st of august. And some more fun is planned as well. We’ll see how it turns out

Tax the middle class, always tax the middle class. Until …

Amber tree had an overview of the latest taxes our beloved government will put at the feet of the Belgian investors. Although this dedication of targeting the private investor is somewhat new, the broader trend of taxing the middle class is not.

Tax the middle class, always tax the middle class

It is pretty logical to tax the middle class. The rich are hard to tax because they can afford to spend money to find ways to avoid taxes (and if everything else fails they can always chose for the nuclear option and relocate to a more favorable country). The middleclass not so much. Spending 10.000 euro on a financial expert to avoid 100.000 euro in taxes is smart. Spending 10.000 euro to avoid a few 1000 euro’s in tax not so much. And the poor, well they are poor. Take away the little they have and you could face open revolt in the streets; And if there is one thing the government want to avoid at all cost it is a revolt (rulers tend to lose their head when Europeans revolt).

So the middle class it has been for the last decades! In those decades labor has been taxed so heavenly that an increase there would actually diminish total tax returns. Consumption too is taxed at its maximum: 21% on most products. Go higher and in a small country like Belgium everybody will start shopping in France or Germany. Since earning money and spending money are out, they are now looking at what is not earned or spend: savings and investments. Looking for ways to tax it and trying to determine the maximum they can tax in that category. I am afraid they have just begun with this exercise. Fortunately for us it will be an exercise in futility.

Until …

It has been my conviction for some years now that the increasing digitalization of our world is decreasing the taxable base for our government. A digital world is also a winner takes all world. As a government you either make damn sure your country hops on new innovations when they starts or you are left with nothing. A real life example to illustrate this point.

Sigarettes. When filter cigarettes came on to the market (the filter once was an example of great technological innovation and created an entire new, bigger market of smokers), as a government, you could afford to be ‘late’ to the party. No matter when you would allow them on your market (either soon after it was invented and commercialized or years later because you had a non-filter tobacco industry you tried to protect) once you allowed it, the follow would happen. Factories would be built in your country, an entire logistics/distribution chain would be created (wholesale – retail sellers) and marketing would happen in your country. Each and ever of those things could be taxed. The only thing you lost by being late to the party was the headquarter and part of the net profit (all those years you waited, foreign brands grew bigger and bigger. Once you allow it, they flood into your country leaving no room for local entrepreneurs to launch a national brand).

Fast forward to the next innovation on smoking: vaping. Being late to the party (as Belgium is because it first did not allow the sale of it and now has a very restrictive law) means that everybody just orders it at foreign web shops. Production, marketing, almost everything now happens in another country and the only thing the Belgian government can tax is the low paid guy in his delivery van who delivers your package at your home. But he is low paid, so taxing him more could lead to revolt. See above why that is a no no. In other words, being late to the party before the internet left you as a government with about 90% of this new market still to tax. Now, it leaves you with nothing to tax.

Digitalization also, in itself has the effect of either shortening value chains or destroying them completely. Renting a movie used to have a pretty decent chain to tax: wholesale, marketing, video shops (called videotheques in Belgium). A lot of parts to be taxed. Now it is Netflix. Same for music, games, banking … pretty soon we will have self-driving cars and instead of having 6 million individual owners to tax our government will have Google and such as an opponent. And Google is a hell of a lot harder to tax than those 6 million individual owners …

So digitalization leaves less parts of value chains to tax. But, and I circle back to the taxing of individual investors, it also increases the possibilities to avoid taxes. Even if you are not part of the wealthy. The internet is a gigantic information database where people share their wisdom. Which means that as soon as 1 person finds a way to avoid a certain tax, everybody knows of it.

I am member of Facebook group about frugal living where each and every day dozen of tips are shared on how to buy stuff cheaper. Remember, every euro not spend on consumption is 0.21 euro of VAT tax lost to the government. My dad, 64 years old, spends his day on cycling forums. As a result he is now buying cycling gear in China. Those new tax laws have not yet been voted and implemented, and already ways of avoiding it are appearing on line.

And if all else fails, the nuclear option is also a lot easier to use than in the past. Relocating has never been easier and cheaper than now. You can find tons of information on the internet. Keeping contact with friends and family in the mother country is easier thanks to social media and popping over the cheapest thanks to cheap flights or buses . All this means that where once you needed a couple of million to make it feasible to relocate, I now think that 1,2 million euro is sufficient. This would give you 24.000 euro a person to live off. More than enough to live a very comfortable life in most places on this world. With a wealth tax that starts at 500.000 euro and a nuclear limit that can be deployed at 600.000 euro that does not leave a whole lot of tax room for our beloved government to tax.

The sad thing is that they know it. But where our videotheques accepted their fate and quietly disappeared (or re-invented themselves as fast-food or mobile phone shops) our government seems to have no interest in slowly fading away. Just like the industrial revolution has come to an end and been displaced by the digital revolution. The government form that evolved with that industrial revolution will sooner or later be displaced. Just look at our history. There was a long time where the land nobility ruled our society. Then the industrial revolution happened and things changed. In most countries they accepted their fate, stepped aside and let progress follow it course. In other countries they resisted and were unwilling to relinquish their power. Those got their head chopped off … Personally I abhor the value destruction that a revolt brings with it. But hey, I am sure you can find the building plans to a guillotine somewhere on the internet….

 

 

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