Time makes all the difference

As you most probably know by now, time is our most precious resource. You can be filthy rich, and yet, no matter how much money you can spend, the clock keeps ticking and every day that passed is a day that you won’t get back.

This is why time is the single, most precious asset for any person who stopped worrying about money. Ultimately, this is also the reason why most people who try to free themselves from the rat race hardly talk about getting rich, but talk more about being free. About the freedom to use their time, as their please, and about the privilege to be able to stop exchanging their time for cash.

However, there is one point that requires serious consideration, and along the way, a degree of self-awareness, that many people don’t have. If you really have all the time in the world just for yourself and stop worrying about money, what will you do with your time?

Going to the gym, taking a plunge in a pool, having a coffee in a nice coffee shop, taking a walk with your dog, picking your kid up from school… that’s all great, but at some point, you might start asking yourself what your purpose in life is, if you got no other aim, or target to follow.

If you are about to escape the rat race, what will you do with your time?

Take care of your family

I feel pretty motivated these days to write about a few more things that are on my mind, and one of these things is something I consider pretty important. My family.

Now, we don’t know the future. We don’t know how things will turn out, and as my anti-FIRE friends like to say: If you die tomorrow, all your work was for nothing. That is true. Sad, cruel, maybe somehow sarcastic, but nevertheless, true. As investors, we are almost obliged to be positive and to see a bright future ahead. Otherwise, what’s the point? But obviously, it is still possible that something happens that we didn’t expect or simply didn’t put into equation.

An accident, a sudden death, a divorce, family wars, or just anything that might disturb the peace, harmony, and the bubble that we feel comfortable in at this very moment. So, while it might be difficult to control most factors and possible drama around that, we can make sure of one thing: That no matter what happens, everyone will be more or less protected financially.

For this reason, I have added another 2 goals to my 2019 targets: Building up of two additional stock accounts. One for my daughter and one for my wife.

The one for my wife will be income oriented and focus on high-yield-dividend stocks. Since my wife is Thai (and we are living in Thailand), and to make sure to keep things as straightforward as possible and easy with the tax office, I will dive deep into the Thai stock market and setup a pure Thai stock portfolio. It will be an interesting ride.

For my daughter, I plan to create a mix of income and growth with my broker in Germany. A rather smaller amount will be put in some monthly paying stocks, which should cover her future pocket money requirements. And a little larger amount into a few growth stocks that may potentially help her to reach my current target at a significantly earlier stage in her life. While I plan to reach F.I.R.E. by 45, I believe she should be at least F.I. by her 30s. Being only 3 years old, she got a 27 years head-start. It should be do-able.

I started purchasing some first stocks for my wife last year, just to get to know the market and to understand trading patterns, with very small trading amounts. The great thing in Thailand is, that trading cost is extremely low. While our American friends already enjoy super-competitive trading platforms with very low cost, most European counterparts tend to be pretty expensive, with usually a minimum charge of around 8-10 EUR for a 1000 EUR order. Well, in Thailand, we are literally talking pennies, so you can even start with as little as 50-100 EUR to invest almost without any effect on your performance due to purchasing and selling cost.

Another great point of setting up a trading-income account in Thailand will be, that it will help us to reduce our currency exchange risk. When the time comes that we will start to actually use the generated income from the accounts, we will have the luxury to use EUROS when the exchange rate becomes more favourable again, and to use Thai Bath in case the EUR keeps trading low.

Obviously, in case anything should happen to me, or any single one of us, everybody will be still protected with some source of income to make it through the roughest times.

No matter how I see it, there is only a win-win there.

Again, my anti-FIRE friends might argue, that an insurance is better suited for that. I disagree. Not only have stocks a life-time-income and growth potential far beyond what an insurance can offer, it is also uncomplicated, without any small-lettered-exceptions and conditions, it is unbureaucratic and lastly, it will also help to educate my entire family financially to a point, that is far above average.

For example: I will keep re-investing the profits from my daughters account back into her account on a regular basis. When she starts withdrawing cash from the income for her pocket money purposes, let’s say at the age of 10, she will always receive a choice: Get the cash, or re-invest it, to increase her future income. She will not get any pocket money increases from me, it will be all her own decisions. No need to say that same will go for my wife 🙂 Well, if put the cash into the right stocks, she will automatically benefit from any dividend increases – and suffer from dividend cuts in case they occur.

We are 3 weeks into 2019, this means 49 more weeks to go. Time is short, let’s make the best out of it.

2019 will be THE year of opportunities

With all the drama all around the world, I firmly believe that 2019 will be still a great year with plenty of opportunities ahead and some really interesting developments. For FIRE aspirants such as myself, this could be a crucial year to move a big step forward towards the aim of financial independence. But before we get to that, let me point out a few interesting developments:

  1. Plenty of undervalued stocks – yes, 2018 was not great for investors, but many high-quality stocks suffered dramatic losses that were not really justified or simply exaggerated. In Europe, we have the car industry with such amazing brands like Daimler and BMW which trade on lowest valuations and have the potential for great turn-around stories. Look at the chemistry sector, with BASF being down to levels which we didn’t see for 5 years. Of course, you can be more careful and go for a diversified DAX ETF product to invest in all of these companies, but in my humble opinion, now is the time for cherry picking. Many of the most recognized brands are now at seriously low valuations and up for a grab.
  2. Dividend season is coming soon – while US investors enjoy quarterly or even monthly dividend payments, most European companies pay out dividends only once or twice a year. For European investors, the dividend season is usually between April – July which starts only 3 months from now, and chances are that 2019 will be another record year in dividend payouts. Also, with the currently low valuations, dividend yields look great!
  3. A recovery might come sooner and quicker than we expect – Because, despite all the uncertainties and drama, companies still make money. There is currently no serious threat of a financial crisis, political risks are mostly priced in the market and in general, I would say that most investors are by now pretty used to calculate risks and price them into their investments. This would indicate that as soon as things start looking more stable, everybody will jump back on the train and market valuations will move up swiftly. You saw a glimpse of that just yesterday when there was a rumor about a potential new trade deal between China and the US.

So knowing all these points, it might be not a bad time to put some cash back into stocks. Personally, I have put most of my cash reserves in stocks during December, when things were dropping down. This way I was able to lower my average costs per share for some of my stocks, which were hit the strongest by the downturn, and I hope this will pay off over the next few months ahead.

If you did the same, kudos! I believe it was. a great move. If not, watch out for undervalued stocks in the market. High dividend yields, low price/earnings ratios with solid brand names, large cash-flows and proven business models are on sales now. For the US market, take a look at AT&T, Oracle, Coca Cola, Apple.

Every stock downturn is a time of chances and opportunities. While inexperienced investors are biting nails, FIRE aspirants are scrambling all the cash they can find to put it into the market. Because, as we know, every downturn is an opportunity. Every crash is followed by a recovery. And every high yield that we can secure now, will ultimately help us to reach our goal of early retirement faster.

Disclosure: I am long invested in Daimler, AT&T, and Apple. 

Drama is all around

For anyone who was thinking that 2019 would offer some political stability and economic recovery, the year started pretty awful. Let’s take a look:

  1. Brexit – everything hints at a total disaster with the UKs decision to leave the EU. We can expect high market volatility and a lot of insecurity on how an unorganised Brexit will actually effect everyone.
    My take on this matter: The Brexit will be cancelled. I think everyone already understood, that the British government is not capable of managing something on such a huge scale. For investors, there may be some great opportunities to watch out for: Vodafone offers an all-time high dividend yield of 8,8%, GlaxoSmithKline is at 4,9%, and Royal Dutch Shell (B) is at 6,1%. It might be a good time to take a closer look and risk-oriented investors might consider building-up some first positions.
  2. Trump Impeachment – Another huge topic to look at. The investigation into a Russian collusion is proceeding very quickly and Trumps own people start turning on each other and on Trump. American news outlets don’t give us really any clear picture on what is happening. You can watch CNN or FOX discussing the same issue and you will get completely different interpretations and results depending on the channel you prefer to watch. However, in the end, something big will happen and this end might happen very soon. I am almost certain that we will see things clearing up in 2019.
    My take on this: Politics in the US are seriously messed up and Trump may survive this. If he does, the future is truly unpredictable and even more, I would then expect Trump to even win a re-election. If he doesn’t survive this drama, then we may see markets rise together with democrats regaining power. We would probably see stabilising tariffs, politicians focusing on trade and reducing international disputes and a generally speaking more positive sentiment. I would love to see that happen, but for now I remain sceptical.
  3. Chinas expansion – If you watched Mr. Xi’s New Years speech, you might actually get scared. Telling on television to his own troops to get ready for conflicts, and to emphasise his position about reserving the right to take Taiwan by any means including force is not a small thing. At the same time, we have the South China Sea boiling up, China’s investments in infrastructure and technology projects and companies across the globe, and a stronger than ever buildup of military power, intelligence and provocations with even the mightiest nations in the world.
    My take on this: China got some serious issues to tackle and apparently more and more challenges to control its economy and its population. A dangerous mix that has, historically speaking, often led governments who try everything to prevail in power to do stupid things. What worries me the most is that China seems absolutely not concerned about challenging not only the USA, but also Canada, Japan, all South East Asian nations and even Europe. All at the same time. Their tricky rhetoric and massive cash deployments across the globe are being met with more and more scepticism and might turn into a very negative sentiment by the end of this decade. I have only 1 Chinese company in my portfolio (Baozun) and will probably refrain from any further investments in the Chinese market, until it becomes more clear where this country is actually heading.
  4. European Dramas – with all the Brexit talks, the only other topic in the EU that is still coming up frequently, is Mr. Macron and his failure to find a proper communication channel to the French. The yellow-vest-movement shrank, but turned more violent and could gain new traction at any time. All this happens for one main reason: France is in trouble as its economic numbers don’t match up. But to be fair, it’s not only France. Spain, Greece, Italy… there are tons of problems to tackle and any of these countries could cause a major drama in 2019.
    My take on this: If the Brexit will be cancelled, then Europe will be just fine. On the other hand, if the UK really leaves the EU, the results will be unpredictable. We might see other countries willing to follow suit which could eventually destroy the EU as we know it. In terms of investments however, Europe is a paradise at the moment. So many great and undervalued stocks out there, that it’s hard to list them all.

I will keep it at this 4 points for this post, but there are actually so many other things and dramas to worry about, that there is only 1 conclusion that we can be truly sure off for 2019: It will be an exciting year.

Disclosure: I own all stocks mentioned in this article.

2019 – Drop the resolutions!

Yes, you read right. The new year started but we don’t do the resolution stuff. We start the year with serious targets.

Today is the 6th of January, so the 1st week is almost gone. This means that we have roughly another 51 weeks to meet our own, ambitious but still realistic expectations on 2019. What can be done in 51 weeks? Here are my targets:

  1. Improve on time management. As you all know, and as the sub-headline of this blog indicates it: It’s all not about money, it’s about time. Time is our most precious resource and it needs to be managed well. A day has 24 hours. After deducting those 6-7 hours that are necessary to re-charge our batteries, plenty of things can be achieved each and every single day, if we allocate the remaining time efficiently. I would rate myself rather poor on this skill so far, as I still spend way too much time with my phone, while I could allocate more time to this blog, to my side hustle, to stock analysis, and to my workout routine. I will start slowly by:
    • trying to leave work on time,
    • delete useless apps from my phone and
    • to schedule my workout routine a little earlier throughout the day (so far I was always exercising after 10 pm)
  2. Increase side hustle earning by 50%. Right now I am writing about 1 article a week on average. I will try to increase this to 6 articles a month to curb my side-hustle income and to have more cash available for investments.
  3. Increase my dividend income by at least 10%. That’s right. While this should be not a problem, I put it on my target list. Most of my stocks will increase the dividend throughout this year anywhere between 2% up to 25%. However, I can also increase my dividend output by buying more stocks of companies which I already owe and which had been dragged down throughout 2018. This will cost-average down the stock-price in my portfolio and thus increase my average yield on cost per stock.
  4. Prepare for a larger market crash by saving up enough cash to be equivalent of 50% of my current stock portfolio volume. That’s the biggest and most difficult one, because this would require me to really try to achieve my savings target of 40% of my total annual income. Not impossible, but a tough one.
  5. Find a new job and re-negotiate my base salary by at least +20%. As mentioned in the last post, it should be possible due to my current situation, but I will aim even significantly higher. With perks and benefits, the total value increase should be at around 35%.
  6. Take a break for 1 month in between jobs. Yes, I put this in my target list also. I need time to recover and re-charge after my current assignment. I have now worked almost 2 years with a 6-day workweek, spending on average roughly 65 hours a week in my hotel. This does not include my side-hustle activities, my family time and my exercise routines (which takes 1,5 hours per day). So yes, to ensure I get no heart-attack before time, taking a break for a month will be commendable.
  7. Visit Japan and/or Korea this year. Indeed, it is about time. I haven’t gone to Korea and Japan since 2012 which is a real shame. I know my parents want to see my daughter and want us to go to Europe, but Japan and Korea is the reason why I moved to Asia in the first place and I seriously need to visit this beautiful places once again. On top, I have promised my wife this trip for a very long time.
  8. Exercise routine annual target:
    • 36,500 push-ups (100 per day),
    • 18,250 burpees (50 per day or 150 every 3 days),
    • 18,250 squats (50 per day or 150 every 3 days),
    • 3,650 pull-ups (10 per day),
    • Fresh-up of all my martial arts / kata routines
  9. Actively teaching German and English to my 3 year old daughter for 30 min a day
  10. Actively involve my daughter in my exercise routine to practice with me. She already started to sit on my head when I do squats or push-ups and loves to hang on to me when I try to do pull-ups, but this can be fostered more

So yeah, many things to do and 51 weeks is actually a short time. The older we get, the more we realise how precious time is. Let’s make the most of it.

And no, you really don’t need 8 hours sleep. The day is just too short to spend 1/3 of it with doing nothing.

This year, I also intend to write more about individual stocks and my investments. So just to give a brief heads-up, here a list of stocks which will be discussed and possibly purchased sometime in 2019:

Monthly dividend paying stocks:

  • Gladstone Investment
  • Main Street Capital
  • Realty Income
  • Apple Hospitality

Regular Stocks:

  • Ares Capital
  • Cisco Systems
  • Starbucks
  • Microsoft
  • McDonalds
  • Coca Cola
  • Merck
  • Pfizer
  • Iron Mountain
  • Tesla
  • Bayer
  • BASF
  • Aumann
  • DÜRR
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Royal Dutch Shell (B)
  • Baozun
  • Alibaba
  • QQQ

ETF:

  • iShares MDAX UCITS ETF

Disclosure: Some of those stocks I already owe, some I had in my portfolio in the past but sold them with a profit and plan to buy again when prices drop.

So get ready for a furious, active and hopefully rewarding 2019!