Jan 012018
 

Depending on the flock you listen to, breaking free from the corporate cubicle to self employment and entrepreneurship is the only viable path to wealth and contentment.

Speaking with those that have done it solicits the common response “It’s hard work but I should have done it years ago. Don’t be afraid. Just do it. you wont be sorry”.

So I’m thinking – I have always been “self employed”. No, not by the Woolly Masses definition, but certainly by my own. Up until 2017.12.31 it has just happened to be “self-employed” within a corporate framework. I have had bosses and customers, just like a consultant or one-man business. Everyone answers to someone whether a boss, a customer, a shareholder. No one escapes that, not if you want people to pay you.

That said, it’s still a major shift in direction that this beautiful first morning of 2018 has brought. From today, I really am “self employed” by everyone’s definition of the word.

Let the Funemployment begin!

Nov 302017
 

Life becomes interesting when theory turns to practice!

It’s one thing to have an FU-Fund, hidden away in a financial institution somewhere, purely represented as numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s quite another to actually be deep into the process of cashing it in, preparing for a period of unemployment sabbatical from January 2018.

I’m doing the calculations over and over and over, cutting back all unnecessary spend, looking into capital gains tax implications, trying to make the best decisions to ensure that the bucket of cash stretches as far as possible without sacrificing any too much quality of life. It’s too late now, the deed is done….

People ask of me “Was this planned?”

Yes and No!

I’ve known for a long time this day was coming but never knew exactly when. To be honest I was only expecting it in 6 years time, at age 55. Also, the plan, if one can so grandly call it that, was always more to gather enough in order to be able to quit permanently.

But, as an old salt knows, plans should always be drawn with a stick in the sand since the tides of life have a habit of washing them away at times.

And so it has come to pass that events at The Office have become too much for me to stomach. “I quit!” is now a reality.

The FU-Fund consists of 2 portions. The first, held in unit trusts and shares, will fund phase-1; 8 to 10 months of living. If, in that time I still haven’t found another suitable and sufficient source of income, then phase-2 will be funded by the corporate pension fund (which will be transferred to a preservation fund on resignation). There’s about another 2 years of living there. If I cannot come up with some income in that timeframe then I’m going to call myself pretty useless!

The problems are few but potentially critical:

  • The FU-Fund is also the emergency fund. And we all know that life has this nasty habit of throwing “emergencies” your way, especially when they’re not needed.
  • In order to stretch the money, all savings and investments are put on hold. This obviously impacts the final FIRE date and needs be addressed asap. It also means that the FI stash is now on its own. No added monthly boosters. Only compound interest.
  • Cashing out the corporate pension should be a last resort. We need this growing towards the final FIRE date. But, there is uncertainty about whether it will be needed or not and that’s why it’s going into a preservation fund. It maintains the benefits there but allows a single transaction to cash out before 55. Just in case!
  • I’m 49, pale and male – living in South Africa. Enough said! This is most likely the end of normal, corporate career – forever.

Not all of these are negative factors. The last is probably the incentive I need to be autonomous, to create and run my own little lifestyle business?

So, while I still have one foot in the door, hoping for some kind of “offer” to keep me working here, deep down I know it’s not worth it. The stress and misery of this particular corporate is killing me. It would be a huge mistake to stay. I need to search for new opportuniies closer to the boat.

And so, for better or worse, the plan has being put into action, not in exactly the same way as envisaged but close enough. Now it’s time to ensure that my free time is not wasted.

Nov 192017
 

What does the future hold?

In many ways, the general trajectory of possible outcomes is known. For example, if you don’t add some kind of value in exchange for cash, chances are good you’ll end up living under a bridge. Or, if you commit a crime, chances are you’ll end up serving time. But, those kind of generalised cause-and-effect scenarios don’t really appease the inate “need” for certainty, the need to know how tomorrow will be.

It’s utter folly of course, on several fronts. If tomorrow were known life would certainly be dull.

I happened upon an svDelos video the other night. They were interviewing the crew of svSaltBreaker (in Cape Town nonetheless). Another boatload of people, taking a chance at living a good life (or so it would seem). It is of course important to always remember, the internet is very, very good at painting a picture-perfect life and very, very bad at showing actual real life. That said, there are definitely people out there living their dreams and who have an appetite for uncertainty that extends far beyond mine.

I perhaps need to exercise that muscle a little. Not just in single huge events like quitting a 30 year career but in everyday life as well.

Oct 222017
 

Markus awakes yet again to the cold sweat of fear.

He finds himself in a long, dark corridor, right at the very end. No matter which way he looks, he can perceive but two options.

Former colleagues, knives out and heads like snakes, block the return to a bright and cheery cubicle hell. Worse still, some advance with malicious intent.

At the dead end, a vast and intimidating fire escape door emblazoned with the words “Exit Only. No Return!”

Unable (or perhaps unwilling) to fight his way back to the light, Markus rests one trembling hand on the door release, sensing full well the turbulent vortex beyond, waiting to suck him out. Its a drastic move he now contemplates, with no turning back once it’s done.

The unknown looms fearfully on the other side. A drop to a grimy sidewalk eleven stories down? A sailboat voyage to tropical paradise? Or something unknown in between?

Uncertain and afraid, Markus pulls the covers up and returns to restless sleep, hoping with all his being the situation might resolve itself, but knowing full well that only he can change things by opening that damn door…….

Sep 022017
 

Currently, the rage is “speculative investment” [i.e. gambling] in bitcoins. Mining them, buying/selling them. The “price” has been extremely volatile. In the last year or so it has risen ~800%, once again still compared to the USD.

Had you only got in at the right time…..! And now the mad stampede of the woolly masses gains momentum.

The value of bitcoin? Perhaps as a replacement to cold hard cash or Kruger Rands in the bilge as we sail south? The fundamental problem remains however. You can mine them [getting harder and harder to do], you can hide them [only if you don’t use them]. But, in the current world, there is still an interface in and out into the financial currencies we all need to buy food, fuel, fund daily life. And it’s this interface that governments will watch and tax. And watch very closely they will. And ultimately, even inside the Bitcoin system, your bitcoins and you transactions are, ultimately with a little computing effort it seems, traceable back to you.

The fact that the Bitcoin system takes away central financial control from the ruling elite is a very, very appealing lure to any with even a hint of anarchistic or libetarian thought. But then again, will it really? How likely is it that those with vast financial resources, those that rule the world, have not seen this and are also employing armies of vastly intelligent programmers to further their own agendas?

And then there’s also way, way too much emphasis placed on how transactions are “totally secure” because of the distributed Blockchain. There’s the argument that they are like gold, limited and finite and not inflationary like dollars that can be printed at will. Really? If they are divisable into smaller and smaller units, at will and ad-infinitum? I call BS on that.

Someone, somewhere, is waiting in the shadows, ready to turn on some code and transfer some wealth. You wait and see.

===================================================>

….here’s an interesting extract from an article from Startupboy.com…..

Silicon Valley knows a platform when it sees it, and is aflame with Bitcoin. Teams of brilliant young programmers, entranced by the opportunity, are working on Exchanges (Payward, Buttercoin, Vaurum), Futures Markets (ICBIT), Hardware Wallets (BitCoinCard, Trezor, etc), Payment Processors (bitpay.com), Banks, Escrow companies, Vaults, Mobile Wallets, Remittance Networks (bitinstant.com), Local Trading networks (localbitcoins.com), and more.

Looming over them is how governments view Bitcoin and the entrenched financial powers it threatens. The last few decades have seen a move towards a cashless society, where every transaction is tracked, reported, and controlled. Bitcoin takes powers from the central actors and returns it to merchants and consumers, savers and borrowers. Bitcoin brings back some pseudonymity in the transactions, and can be irrevocably traded like cash. And finally, it points a way towards a single currency – it is a bug, not a feature, that we have multiple global currencies with exchangers and transaction fees in between.

Governments have been cracking down on the bitcoin exchanges, making it harder to obtain and slowing its development. Strict and expensive Money Transmitter regulations, designed to slow terrorist and child porn financing, threaten the next great technological revolution – never mind that terrorists can use cash just fine, the means of terror are cheap, and that they account for an infinitesimal fraction of global commerce. Regulators in the US and UK would be wise to proceed with a light touch, lest they push the development of Bitcoin and its entrepreneurs to places like Canada, Finland, and the Sino-sphere.

The United States has benefited enormously from being home to the majority of global companies driving the Internet revolution. The country that is the home to the Internet of Money could one day end up as the guardian of the new Reserve Currency and the Global Money Supply.

Apr 152016
 

Adventure bikes. Once again my brain under the misconception that I don’t “adventure” out because I dont have an “adventure” bike in the stable.

The life one observes out there sometimes seems a lot like that, especially true of me sometimes, but it’s totally bogus. The reason we don’t venture out is because it’s a little bit hard, a little bit uncomfortable. Having some cool (read very expensive) new toys may well propagate an ”adventure” or two in the short term, but once the honeymoon period is over all that normally remains is remorse, bills and clutter.

The ZR7 is not ideal. But then I truly believe all bikes are a compromise, a little like sailboats. There is absolutely no reason I couldn’t do the CT run on the Kawa. No reason at all other than I fear the uncomfortable numbness!

This is a recurring thought pattern in my life, this justifying. Fortunately I’m at a stage where I finally realise the folly of this this pattern. It’s not the adventure bike I’m after but rather the adventure itself. And even then, sometimes I fear it’s not even the adventure that I’m after but rather just on escape from this miserably monotonous daily corporate grind.

The plan just can’t happen soon enough at this stage!

Mar 282016
 

We humans spend vast amounts of emotional energy analysing the past in order to plan, predict and attempt perfectly happy futures.

Our current society spends much of this energy focused on money, with the belief that; “money solves all.” A logical extension of this is the fear that a lack of money necessarily translates to misery.

While this may be somewhat true I have the sneaking suspicion that it’s not as perfectly true as we are all lead to believe.

On a personal level, history would indicate that I shouldn’t fear losing my job at all because I have never been without. On a collective, social level, history indicates just the opposite. Intellectually I know I’m possibly (in all likelihood) over-fearful and yet I find it difficult to just throw caution to the wind. The logical planner in me says I have the future covered. The fearful sheep in me is swayed by the Woolly Masses and fears that the dream isn’t possible for me, only for other braver souls.

Somewhere in the middle there is my reality.

In my current life-phase I find myself unhappy with my past life – that of preparing more for the future at the expense of living in the now. I’m determined to change that and yet, unconsciously, I still fear that I’m going overboard and jeopardising the future.

Our current burn rate is unsustainable. Even though we knew it was coming and we sort of planned and saved for it, it all happened under a very different frame of mind. That of the standard work until 65 and then hopefully have enough for FI.

With the new drive for FI and to live more for the present, the spend sometimes feels totally contrary to the desire for freedom. It’s that whole balance thing once again. Live for now but have something stashed away for tomorrow in case you are forced by circumstance to start over.

Part of this is my inner need for certainty. After all, my engineering mind demands precision, my project manager side, the perfectly planned and executed tomorrow. In a very real sense it’s who I am, part of my genetic makeup. On the flip side though it’s also a given that it’s partly the cause of my inability to find total peace and happiness in the imperfect now.

The theory postulated in “Wisdom of Insecurity” is that many of our problems originate because of our propensity to try and separate the logical “I” from the visceral “me”. Watts proposes that the two do not exist; it’s only your current experience that is you. Not sure I fully agree that’s all I am but I do agree that ”’I” seems to spend most of his time living everywhere but the now. The key to more contented happiness is to stop overriding the “me” in the present.

The “I” has ruled for too long. Time for “me” to move ‘Blue !

Feb 032016
 

Our Glencairn rental property is, because of it’s location, size and value, targeted at a certain demographic (by default I guess); typically that of the single mother or lower middle-class income earner. As a result, over the two-and-a-bit years we’ve owned and let the house, we’ve seen many cases of people living pay-check-to-pay-check, unable to pay the rent as soon as their employers make a late payment or they loose their jobs.

Not nice. Not for them and not for us as landlords!

These cases often have me pondering our own situation, our liquidity and our own ability to survive a job loss or a temporary loss of salary. (The issue that clouds my thinking sometimes is the bond debt.)

So, we’re not in the same situation by any means but if we were to max out the bond (I. E. Take the full R1.6M allowed) Then we would have zero means of getting ready cash in an emergency. All our reserves are tied up in assets and investments that, while they can be sold or borrowed against should the need arise, would all take a while to liquidate and would all most certainly take a knock in value with a depressed market and economy. That is, I believe, my greatest concern with the way we are funding UCT this year – we’re greatly diminishing that “buffer”.

A worst case scenario for us in the present moment would be a retrenchment; with UCT fees to pay and no desire to find another corporate Plato’s Cave. Such an event would have us scrambling to see which options suited. There would be three avenues of investigation:

1. Could we sell 253 for a decent price (akaR2.5M)?

*  This would kill the debt and leave us with R1M to R1.5M which would buy a little time but would quickly run out at current burn rates.

2. Could we rent out 253 while living in the cottage?

* The cottage isn’t yet habitable; we need some spend here still but we could live and build while income comes in from the main house.
* The hope is that this option would bring in R20k pm between 253 and 16deV (but it comes with risk and headaches as we’ve seen this month in Glencairn )

3. We could cash in unit trusts (R177k) and SESA shares (R35k?)

* Not ideal right now since the market is in something of a free fall (OM UTs lost about R10k in value already)
* The plus here is these are quick and easy to cash and could buy us time.

So these are our only real options (there may be others but right now I can’t think of any). Damelin is paid for all of 2016. UCT is paid up until mid-year, so as of Feb we’d have 4 to 5 months to make a plan or go back to work. If it did happen we would immediately need to rachet down our current burn ( eg putting Frank on notice, cutting travel costs, really shopping carefully, selling the cars, changing the medical aid options, etc. There’s not much space to cut but there are definitely possibilities). As an ultra extreme measure we could pause the PPS RA’S again but that would be last resort.

Bottom line is there is no way we can carry on at our current burn rate. We would have to make some hard decisions if we wished to do that – either more corporate slavery (if indeed that is even possible in sunny SA at present) or lifestyle killers (bye bye Glencairn).

It wouldn’t be pleasant but we could survive it…..I think (at least way better than our tenants).

We’re not quite comfortable with the stash but at least there is a workable plan. Need to keep the expenses low as possible and keep building the stash and the rental options.

We have no choice because I have this gut feel that the scenarios discussed above are way closer than we may like to think!

Do we give it all up for this life? I think so!

Do we give it all up for this life? I think so!

Sep 212014
 

The last three months of challenge, culminating in a break-in on Ocean Blue, have precipitated a chain of events that I’m not entirely sure is wise at this stage but that is going ahead nevertheless.

Ocean Blue now has a new home. The next phase is started and from here there is only 1 move – on a flat-bed and headed for the ocean…….

ob mantens

Feb 122014
 

At this stage of my working life I am under no illusions that a move to another corporate job is going to be drastically different. None whatsoever. So why the move?

It’s been a challenging year and a bit, one in which I’ve been stretched technically. That has been an excellent experience, something that was long overdue. But, they haven’t all been pleasant challenges.

The fact that I’m held accountable for delivery in an organisation where I have limited influence or control is mind-boggling. The matrix interference here is other-wordly ! And there are a myriad of other niggles and gripes many of which, should I be honest, are going to follow me to the next gig.

But, the following are the actual insurmountable ones:

Reasons2

 

At the end of the day the workload, the office politics and people issues .. they are all manageable to a degree. What has really pushed me over the top is the threat to my finances from the policy changes.

After 45 years in this game of life people still haven’t a clue of who I am or what I’m about. If there is one thing about me you should know it’s that I aim to “do what I say”. In general life seems full of people who are exactly the opposite. Big talk and little action folks, the squeeky hinges that get all the attention. I’ve bee open, honest and fair here. I’ve approached the organisation with my concerns and needs. All to no avail. It’s time to stop beating my head against the blood-stained wall.

While I’m under no illusions that there wont be other difficult challenges ahead, at least the allowance issue is resolved. Today is the day to move on! Here’s to a good life until the next roadblock is thrown our way!