For better times

Life is not only about money. And while this blog has its focus on it, today I’d like to share a poem that moved quite some people on the inauguration day of the 46th President of the United States.

“The Hill We Climb”
Amanda Gorman

When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast, we’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice. And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one. And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect, we are striving to forge a union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

So we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another, we seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: that even as we grieved, we grew, even as we hurt, we hoped, that even as we tired, we tried, that we’ll forever be tied together victorious, not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one should make them afraid. If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in in all of the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare it because being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it. That would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy, and this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can periodically be delayed, but it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth, in this faith, we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us, this is the era of just redemption we feared in its inception we did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour but within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves, so while once we asked how can we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us.

We will not march back to what was but move to what shall be, a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free, we will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, our blunders become their burden. But one thing is certain: if we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left, with every breath from my bronze, pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one, we will rise from the golden hills of the West, we will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution, we will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states, we will rise from the sunbaked South, we will rebuild, reconcile, and recover in every known nook of our nation in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful, when the day comes we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.

Let it sink

I won’t comment too much on it. It’s beautiful.

Bye Mr. Trump. Bye, to the rest of the Trump family.
The world is moving on.

The first one for 2021

Finally. 2020 is gone and 2021 has begun. And the start couldn’t be more promising. A little rough, and it’s also affecting me and my journey, but promising nevertheless.

Let’s start with the biggest drama, the virus. COVID is not gone. In fact, it seems to get worse, but it’s not that we wouldn’t have expected that. Most of us make a big deal every year at the end of each and every year about things coming to an end, starting new, new year’s resolutions. But in reality, the next day after the 31st of December is just that. Another day. Another sunrise. Nothing more than another shift in the tides of time. So why should have anything changed in comparison with the day prior to January 1st, 2021?

Correct. Nothing changed. COVID is still spreading and to top it off, there seems to be a slightly mutated version of the virus going around. Spreading faster, it seems to be more difficult to track and isolate.

Japan has declared a state of emergency, China is once again shutting down regions, towns, and cities, and even Thailand came back into a de facto lockdown. The authorities are very cautious in not calling it a lockdown, but the measures in place include massive restrictions on travel, business, and semi-curfews. So I guess using the term “lockdown” is debatable, but certainly not too far off.

And of course the big elephant in the room. The US is in its final days of getting rid of Donald Trump. There is no question that he is leaving a legacy, but in my wildest dreams (or should I say nightmares) I wouldn’t have thought to watch the news and to see what is unfolding in the “oldest democracy in the world”. Shocking. But not surprising. I mean seriously folks. Electing a real-estate shark for president, what would you expect? And it’s not just any real estate guy. It’s one of the worst that ever walked the globe.

Trading the future

Having said all that, expectations are positive. We all know, things need to get worse before they can get better, and the way I see it, we are about to reach the peak of the crisis.

Infections are on the rise, but so are vaccines. Several types of vaccinations are being distributed and administered across the globe, and the ramp-up will only get faster from here. We know there is a life after COVID, and it’s clearly visible on the horizon.

MAGA supporters had a short uprising, but it seems they had not enough support, no real plan, and they were badly organized. So this ended rather quickly. The way I see it, all they did was to bring the Republican party on the brink of collapse. This brings not only a definitive end to Trump and his presidency but potentially also to any other political aspirations anyone in the Trump family might have (had).

So, we see all this happening, and we know that the future will be better. Therefore stocks are rising, and investors are preparing for a bright and profitable second half of 2021. And so am I.

Happy New Year everyone.

The last one for 2020

First things first: Merry Christmas everyone! Nevermind where you live, Christmas is probably not as it’s supposed to be. And neither will be the New Years Eve event. COVID infections worldwide came roaring back across the globe and have crippled public life once again. Even in countries that previously did well in handling it. Yes, even here where I live, in Thailand.

So, while everyone is awaiting the vaccines to roll-out on scale, we have to remain cautious and vigilant, and hold the line until we get through the worst part of this pandemic. My personal expectation is set around the target date of sometime around May 2021.

2021 will get better

I am pretty optimistic for the next year and expect things to get significantly better. While the economic crisis has shattered businesses and destroyed livelihoods, there is a positive effect to it.

As bad as it may sound, the crisis has cleared the market of many weak companies. Stronger companies discovered weak spots and dependencies that had to be addressed. People have realised that some business models are not as bullet-proof as they thought, and some traditional business partners are less reliable and trustworthy than one would have expected. Those who get through this crisis will come out stronger on the other side, new alliances and partnerships will be formed, and unproductive and inefficient constellations have been abandoned.

For investors, these are good news. Especially for those who invest long-term. Getting through a crisis on this scale builds trust and confidence. This in turn will support pricing of shares and dividend payments. The recovery will come.

That is unless…

But of course, the very first thing that COVID taught us is that such dramatic events often come unexpectedly. And while we might indeed be done with COVID sometime next year, the world is far from secure from other crises that might happen right after that. Whether it’s another virus, a military conflict on a global scale, trade-wars, who knows. Everything can happen.

However, the smart thing to do is to remain optimistic. Historically and statistically, optimistic investors fare better and end up better off than pessimists. Always. Because unless the world literally collapses, markets do recover. Businesses adapt and come back. Innovation never stops, it’s part of our DNA.

So with these positive lines I like to say thank you to all my readers for following this blog in 2020, and I am looking forward to keep writing for you also in the coming year. What can you expect from me in 2021?

  • I will continue writing about financial independence. As you know, my target is to become financially independent, and I intend to reach this target by investing in stocks. This will continue and I will keep writing about it.
  • I will start writing about investing in stocks in Thailand and about Thai companies. In 2020 I have opened an investment account for my wife and for my daughter here in Thailand, and started investing on their behalf with surprisingly good results. The experience I gained through this will be something that I like to share with other potential investors, especially those who are living in Thailand.
  • I will start writing about how to set up a business in Thailand. Currently my wife is about to open a small business, a health-food cafe with smoothies and smoothie bowls. We are working on it together and learning a lot about how to open a small business here. We are in the final stages now, but once setup and done, I will share the experiences made along the way in a few articles.

So this is it! Goodbye 2020, hello 2021!

I am wishing you all a healthy and successful new year ahead!

From Bad to Worse

When it comes to the pandemic, there are some good news and reasons to be hopeful. Several vaccines are either in their final development stage or about to get approved. Right on time for the end of the dreadful year of 2020. 2021 can only get better. Or can it?

We still have 5 weeks for 2020 to go, and no matter what happens until New Year’s Eve, this won’t be the end of the challenges. Challenges with the pandemic, and challenges with the economy. Production, distribution, and the re-opening of borders will take time. So will the recovery of the economy. And we are not talking about days or weeks. We are talking about months and years.

Why things might get worse

Markets tend to be optimistic, but corporations tend to be cruel – by perception. Despite the silver lining on the horizon, chances are that most companies will continue cutting costs, reducing payrolls, and doing whatever necessary to survive. But not only that. Many companies see this as an opportunity to push through decisions that may have not been possible without such a crisis.

Some of these decisions might be radical, but necessary and possibly have been even urgent for a while. Upgrades of IT systems. Reviews of procedures. Reorganizing teams and the abolishment of established structures. But there is also a downside to it, especially when it comes to the “reorganizing teams” part. People are losing jobs.

Same old or not?

Now don’t get me wrong. This is nothing new. Maximising revenues and minimising expenses is what every business does. That’s how you generate profits. This was the case before the pandemic. During the pandemic. And it will stay with us also after the pandemic. It’s simply how every business works.

But when corporate number-crunchers tell you that everyone is replaceable and that the numbers still don’t look good enough, then you might want to get creative in your response. Short-term requirements for a quick brush-up of the balance sheet might become costly in the long-run. And as everybody “on the ground” knows well, some people are truly not replaceable.

So, while cutting expenses and especially payrolls is nothing new to us, the magnitude of the cuts in the current environment is immense. And many of these cuts are not just until this pandemic is over. Many of these lost jobs will disappear permanently.

Things are not over for the service industry

The tough times are not over, and especially the service industry will continue to suffer. Hotels, bars, restaurants. People will vacation less abroad. Companies will continue keeping business travel at a minimum. Since so many people depleted their savings or borrowed money, they will eat out less and keep parties and events on the low.

As my readers know, I am managing a hotel. For the last 12 years in this industry I was never worried about my profession, and I never worried about my job (which includes finding a new one when I felt it was time to move on).

But this time it’s different. This is the first time that I am not confident in receiving the opportunity to extend my contract (which is due in May 2021). And it’s also the first time that I have doubts. In the case that it should not be renewed, finding an immediate new opportunity will be a serious challenge.

Many of my colleagues have already lost their jobs. Many of them are smarter and more experienced than I. It’s therefore only logical to assume that I might follow in their footsteps rather sooner than later.

One more reason to keep preaching financial independence, and the purpose of having multiple income streams. And practicing it.

About conspiracy theories

One of the most interesting aspects of any crisis is to observe how people react to it. How does the media report on it? How do politicians act? What does your company do? What are the actions of your business partners, competitors, and colleagues?

For me personally, it is most interesting to observe how friends and connections on social media react. When it’s not about business, but about personal opinions, character, and values.

architectural photography of yellow and brown house

Photo by Tsvetoslav Hristov on Pexels.com

Conspiracy theories on the rise

It’s hard not to notice the surging amount of conspiracy theories. Whether it’s a try to demonizing Bill Gates, or a push against China, the internet and social media are full of it. And while I wouldn’t expect anything else from Facebook (I stopped using Facebook almost 1,5 years ago), I am very surprised to see the same narratives even on a professional network such as LinkedIn.

Well, in the end, we are all just people. But let me tell you that as professionals who trust each other in business matters, it can really profoundly disturb a relationship knowing that the person I am dealing with is eager to spread misinformation, fake news, racism, and/or propaganda. In fact, this is a reason for me to seize doing business with such a person.

Controlling your emotions

As professionals and as investors, a major rule of thumb is to control our emotions. No matter what we personally think about something, throughout our careers we train to learn to follow data, to collect information from other people who are actual professionals in those fields, and then to draw conclusions based on the information we have at hand.

We can, of course, express our opinions, worries, or reasons which lead us to believe something to be otherwise. But this needs to be presented as such. And it’s needless to say that propaganda or racism is a non-negotiable and resounding no-go in any case.

About China

So today, let me address a few points that I read about in recent days. This is to offer some additional perspective on the blame China receives:

  • Wet markets. People are now eager to blame everything on the wet markets in China. Fair enough, according to the current data the virus came from there. But how certain are we that a similar outbreak could not occur in a wet market in Vietnam, Thailand or Cambodia? And how about slaughterhouses in the USA, or mass animal farming and chicken breeding? How about the hygienic conditions across India? There are so many potential breeding grounds for a virus, it’s mindboggling.
    My point here is that instead of generally blaming wet markets in China, we should rather try to identify general root issues and how to address those across the globe. But we can only do it in coordination and exchange with other nations. Our “artificial” borders matter nothing for a virus or any other natural disaster for that matter.
  • China is lying to the world. It might be. Whether it’s deliberate lies or creative interpretations of facts and data, we know that we have to be very careful with any information that we receive. But instead of pointing fingers, the USA and Europe should use the tools at hand to push for more data, to evaluate it, and to coordinate a response. Amazingly enough, we do have a real tool and task force just for that: The World Health Organization, or WHO.
  • The WHO is being controlled by the Chinese. There might be some influence. More, or less. We don’t know at this point. So we shouldn’t declare it as a fact and we shouldn’t reduce the funding to this organization just now. However, every participating and paying country has every right to analyze and evaluate an organization they pay money to.
    But what would be the best way to evaluate the WHO? I would argue that it’s probably not by setting up investigative committees and withholding funding. Instead, it might be smarter to send our own trusted professionals to support the work. By actively engaging in discussions and exchange of information, by ensuring that resources and measures are being directed to where they are being needed, this approach would quickly debunk any conspiracy theories, it would eradicate the finger-pointing and blaming, and it would result in a globally coordinated effort. Unity. Something that is urgently needed to fight a pandemic.
  • China will use the crisis to buy foreign companies. This idea is highly unlikely. First of all, China needs to do its own stimulus efforts to support the economy. Secondly, China needs to prepare itself for the upcoming economic disaster. What do I mean by that?
    Chinas growth this year is estimated to be less than 2%. The last time it was that low was after the cultural revolution in 1977. And this is just the current estimation. The real impact of the crisis and what will follow after that is difficult to predict. But we are seeing first sentiments and actions from entities worldwide already taking shape. Companies from major economies around the globe start moving production facilities out of China or are planning to do so in the foreseeable future. China is being sued by several states in the US for damages. Diplomatic ties are strained. Hostile takeovers of companies in the US or in Europe during a pandemic would only risk an irreversible lost of trust and global backlash which I doubt the country can afford.

I am probably the last person to put China into a positive spotlight. After living and working there for a year I had really enough and I don’t see myself ever going back there. Vacations – maybe. But spreading conspiracy theories and racism based on some shady propaganda and without thinking the arguments through… we are better than that.

2019 wasn’t too bad

The year is coming to an end, and despite all the chaos around the globe, it wasn’t a bad year after all. No financial crisis, no armed conflicts on a global scale. Considering all the projections from 2018 it could have been much worse.

I feel like this year passed way too quickly and personally, it was a tough one. When I changed my place of work, I had to separate from my family for more than 7 months now. This situation will remain the same for about 3 more months. All this time I am living in a hotel and doing nothing else but focusing on work. Not always easy and mentally pretty draining, but the tough time is almost over and in January I will be moving out to something that I will be able to call “home” for a while.

The Financials

Financially, 2019 was good. I won’t hit several of my self-imposed targets, but they were maybe a little bit too ambitious. Still, my savings/investments and my dividend income grew significantly by almost 30% and everything is already set to grow at the same or even higher rate in 2020. With a few additional investments I might reach a growth of even 50% in my passive income next year, coming ever closer to my FIRE target.

I have also put a little more cash into two stock accounts here in Thailand. One is for more wife, the second one is for my daughter.

The account for my four-year-old daughter is only investing in 3 ETFs. One focused on dividends, one invests in SMEs, and one that follows the Thai SET index. The current volume is only about 1.500 Euros. I will grow it in 2020 to reach a volume of something around 5.000 Euros. In time, the dividends should serve the purpose of covering her pocket money. The SME-focused ETF which doesn’t pay dividends should continue growing to become her very own FIRE fund in due time. Should she want and/or need one.

For my wife, it’s a different story. I want her to have her very own passive income. I am therefore investing in individual stocks here in Thailand which pay dividends in different months. This will not only help us both to be financially independent, but it will also give us the advantage of having income in both currencies, Euros and in Thai Baht. Depending on the economy, we will then be able to take advantage of the best opportunities in both markets.

Brick & Mortar Business

This year was also an opportunity for me to diversify a little further and to get into some real estate business. I supported my parents financially to invest in a small bed & breakfast business. We are renovating a small house on our land in Poland and plan to set up 4-5 rooms for short-term stays. The income from this beautiful small rental business should secure their retirement, and increase the value of my property in Poland by a solid margin at the same time.

Last but not least, I also identified another potential opportunity in Japan. I will fly in March with a friend to the city of Fukuoka to identify a potential investment in a small bed & breakfast hotel in a hot spring town nearby the city. Given the economic situation in Japan and the diminishing population, many business owners and local governments turn to foreign investors to take over abandoned or decaying properties at bargain prices and I think this could a risky but very interesting opportunity.

The great thing about Japan: Foreigners can set up companies and buy land under their own name. So in comparison to China or Thailand, it’s actually a much more investor-friendly environment. Not to mention that Japan is such a beautiful place to be. I will report more details on this after the trip. Stay tuned.

2020 Forecast

In a few months, I will turn 40 years old. It pretty much feels like a performance peak, with my career, salary, and energy levels all aligned, and I will make sure to make the best of it. Some sacrifices along the way are painful sometimes. Especially seeing my daughter only once every 4-5 weeks for the last 7 months took a high toll, but this should be resolved within the first quarter of 2020 and I see a very promising year ahead as a whole.

“Nobody ever wrote down a plan to be broke, fat, lazy, or stupid. Those things are what happen when you don’t have a plan.” – Larry Winget

Many of my friends and family are always telling me that I tend to plan way too much. They are probably right. But for one, the quote above is pretty motivating to me. Secondly, I like to think that I plan for things that matter, and for things that make a difference for me and for my family’s future. I can’t imagine not having a plan in life.

And yes, step by step, year by year, I can see the change, the improvement. With every improvement, new opportunities are coming up. Let’s see what 2020 will bring!

In this spirit, I am wishing all my readers and followers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And if you don’t have your plan for 2020 set yet, now is the best time to getting to it.

Planning the next year

Today is the last day of the first week of December and it’s about time to get serious about the plan for 2020. I have spent some sleepless nights on reviewing my personal budget for the next year, adjusting savings targets, expenses and thinking about upcoming opportunities.

Health

For 2020, I target a savings rate of “only” around 30% of my regular work income. This doesn’t include my other income sources from investments and dividends. The target is set lower than in previous years because I want to allocate some resources in the next year into another important asset which doesn’t generate income per se: Health.

Full body check-ups for the whole family, dental treatments, scans and whatever should come up that is better fixed earlier than later. Human bodies are not meant to last. We require maintenance like every other machine out there and every once in awhile a check-up and some preventive maintenance are required.

Passive Income

I will spend the next few evenings to make the first projection for my dividend income for the next year. I think it should reach a growth rate of 30-40% and thus reach about a third of my final target which would make me fully financially independent. Not rich, but independent.

It’s amazing to observe how the speed of growth is accelerating now just after 4 years of consistent savings and investments. The first two years were pretty slow, but in 2020 I will have a 3-digit passive income every single month of the year, and given the speed of growth, in 2-3 years it should get to 4 digits.

Travel

But all this would be pointless without some fun along the way. Therefore, while I was never able to afford it when I was younger, I am now planning a trip with my family to Disneyland Tokyo sometime in March. I promised my wife a trip to Japan almost 6 years ago and I just can’t delay it any longer. The vacation has been already approved by my employer and I am going to purchase the tickets today or tomorrow. We will plan 4-5 days for Tokio, 4 days for Kyoto and 4-5 days for the area around Fukuoka/Kyushu.

A little later on in June we will visit Europe. I didn’t start planning for that trip yet, because while this will be vacations, I have to discuss with my wife about the destinations in detail. We are seriously considering moving to Europe in 2021 or 2022 and plan to visit countries that may offer the best opportunities for us to do so. My wife worries about food and schools, I worry about taxes. So obviously we are not perfectly aligned yet.

Hard to believe that only 24 days from now it will be the year 2020…

Can I earn money with ads on my blog?

Among the many jobs that emerged popular in recent years are those of the so-called influencers. Individuals who can motivate others through engaging online content. They encourage others to visit destinations, and to purchase products or services. As an influencer you can either get paid directly by the party which engages you in promoting their service or product, or passively, via ads and commercials. This is how Instagram and YouTube capitalize the content.

Blogs have something almost ancient in the technological world about them. They have been around for a while. In the beginning it was all only about sharing ideas, knowledge, or just about keeping public diaries. However, they can also be used to generate earnings.

Earning with ads

My blog is mainly about motivating people to develop better financial understanding. It’s a niche topic that some may consider a little “dry”. Certainly not sexy. I am hardly posting any pictures, except for the occasional infographic. I don’t promote any specific products or services. Not yet anyway. But even for this kind of blogs there is an option to collect some cash, and to get rewarded for all the effort that is being put into writing all the articles. Online advertising by placing banners in the articles.

I was curious how this could work out and have activated on my WordPress blog the option of the so-called WordAds. It’s basically an automated integration of commercials into the blog based on it’s content and visitors. It is the easiest way with WordPress to setup this kind of service as it can be activated with two clicks on the wordpress website.

Without further adue, I like to share with you the results of my ad-integration:

Screenshot 2019-11-18 at 14.14.51

Low effort equals low results

I admit, I put the lowest possible effort into it. I didn’t put up banners and ads on my main website. I just don’t want to do that. I hate clutter, so you see the banners only if you actually really read a full article. I also didn’t look for any specific partners or looked at affiliate marketing options which are more targeted and specific and which pay significantly better. I seriously just did the bare minimum. And yes, the result speaks for itself.

So if you intend to earn money with you blog or website, I am afraid you should put much more effort into it than I did. Otherwise you might get just this: A mere 0,13 $ for almost an entire year of writing.

Doing the right thing

Among all the places I worked at, one place remained deeply engraved in my DNA. The Intercontinental Hotel in Berlin. I worked there for about a year as a receptionist, and even though the time was short, it had a strong impact on the development of my career and on my personality.

The first and most important thing I learned was, that it’s impossible for me to work like a robot. The Intercontinental Hotel in Berlin is a massive conference hotel with a very intense daily operation. The amount of effort, focus and never-ending attention to detail are crucial to keeping this well-oiled machine running… which is the reason why I quit after a year.

I learned a lot and had great colleagues, but when every single work-step is standardized, constantly being measured and evaluated, then, step by step, you become a machine. While there are tons of advantages to this kind of system, I realized that I was not happy with it and that it was just the wrong kind of pressure for me.

Secondly, I learned a phrase that seems trivial, but that just feels so good and so right: “Do the right thing.”

Corporate brainwashing

The Intercontinental Hotel brand belongs to the Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG). Having also Holiday Inn under its wing, IHG is one of the largest hotel groups in the world. And like every large company with a recognizable brand, there is a solid amount of brainwashing going on to put its employees like soldiers into a line. Don’t get me wrong, every large company in the world does it so I am not judging here.

This brainwashing usually starts with a simple induction training. You will learn all about the vision of your company (what the company wants to achieve), their mission (what the company is actually doing to get there) and some basic principles the company has been build upon. The goal is to establish a bond and to let the employees identify themselves with their employer.

In the second step, things start to get more specific with more focused principles and rules to follow. At IHG, we had a thing called “The 5 winning ways”. I remember 3 of them, but luckily Dr. Google knows them all:

  1. Do the right thing.
  2. Show we care.
  3. Aim higher.
  4. Celebrate the difference.
  5. Work better together.

It has been 8 years since my IHG assignment, and I still remembered number 1, 2 and 4. Especially the first one though gut really stuck in my head. What a great statement to make. “Do the right thing.”. How could anyone not relate to that??

The right thing to do

I mean seriously, who would want to do the “wrong” thing? Doing the right thing seems like a natural, obvious and only choice in any given situation, doesn’t it? Ah, sure it does! BUT… if only things could be that simple.

Unfortunately, nothing is ever simple. As it turns out, things that one person considers to be “right”, someone else might consider to be just the opposite.

We all have something that I like to call an “inner compass”. Something that gives us a sense, a feeling and a guide on how to make decisions. This inner compass is the result of many factors that stretched through our lives. Our family values, our education, our friends, colleagues, work experience, relationships, political influence… Our experiences shape our perspective and establish a certain point of view on any decision we take every single day. Since every one of us has lived differently, this inner compass will also never be a 100% match with the inner compass of others. Thus, the feeling of “right” or “wrong” will be also different for each individual person.

Shifting perspectives

But things get even more complicated because we all have also other factors influencing our decisions. Our boss, our colleagues, our customers, our business partners. Even we might think about something being the right thing to do at a particular moment from our point of view, we might be forced to do something else to meet the expectations of someone else. To maintain a relationship. To keep a job. To our personal benefit. To someone else benefit. The reasons can be countless.

With this much influence and distractions, perspectives can shift easily. Even you sometimes might want to do something that feels like the right thing to do, the result might be just the opposite.

And the same goes for companies. Ultimately, companies are not some soulless entities, but collections of individuals who are bound by a common agenda. That is why in my opinion the Vision and Mission statement of a company is so important.

There may be moments when you think that a company, a CEO or a manager of a business does something that goes against your inner compass. A decision that you do not agree with, condemn or even consider straight evil. And yet there may be a solid reason for it, and the long-term effect of this decision might turn out unexpectedly closer to your sense of something right.

An example (from my point of view)? Let’s look at the energy giant SHELL (Royal Dutch Shell). Their activity in the oil business might feel wrong, but the fact that they use a large number of their funds to transition to natural gas and renewables is a positive long-term move. Positive for my inner compass.

Of course, it might happen exactly the other way round as well. AMAZON, for instance, is pushing for a 15$ per hour minimum wage, which sounds amazing. Only that its utter motives might rather be to kill-off its competition in the SME sector who simply can’t afford to pay such wages. Again, my point of view.

So when you invest, how do you really know that the company you invest in is “doing the right thing”? Truth is, you don’t. But to a certain extent, you can at least have some certainty that you are doing the right thing by investing. Because even if markets are going down now and a recession might be looming. As history has shown, investing was (so far) always the right thing to do.

Disclaimer: I own shares of Royal Dutch Shell – B.

Happiness is relative – but money helps

As some of my readers know, I am a frequent visitor to the website http://www.visualcapitalist.com. It offers a tremendous amount of information in a very easily digestible manner: Smart visualizations. Most recently I have stumbled upon this graphic:

world-happiness-map-2019

I like to be very careful with definitions about such basic terms as “happiness” and especially with the criteria that are going into the scoring system. This is because some things one person may perceive as being essential to one’s happiness, but someone else might see it as completely irrelevant.

This graphic has its origins in the https://worldhappiness.report and you can see for yourself how the gathered data has been evaluated, and ultimately resulted in the given scores.

When looking at this report, I can’t help but notice that the happiest places in the world are also the places with the strongest economic status and specifically GDP per capita. This is by no means an accident.

Fact is that wealth, personal or government’s funds aimed at social purposes can contribute to the happiness of individuals in many ways. If you don’t worry about food, shelter, health, and education, life is becoming simpler. Your worries go away, stress levels go down and the future becomes bright. Even if you might miss some good chances along the way, you might still be doing fine knowing that your children have the same or even better opportunities in the future.

So when people say that money doesn’t buy happiness, I would say that this statement is questionable at least. The wealth that is available for your personal use, whether via your own funds or through the support of your government, will produce, statistically, a higher chance for you to be happy. And it is, therefore, no surprise that the happiest nations in the world tend to be among the richest and socially most engaged.