Feb 182017
 

I sometimes wonder whether everyone in the financial independence blog-o-sphere are not doing a Donald Crowhurst on us all?

Knowing human nature there are sure to be a large percentage of copy-cats blowing their own horns and exaggerating their own importance and achievement.

Even if they are all actually, truly FI, many seem to have adopted a classic flock-like follow-the-leader approach. Just the way they refer to themselves online -> names like Mr Freedom with Mrs Freedom and Junior Freedom tagging along. On the one hand I guess one always wants a little bit of anonymity, but sometimes I honestly feel there is no differentiation or uniqueness at all.

I don’t want to be another of them. Always remember the Wooly Masses Creed: Be on your guard! The flock WILL swallow you up and consume you.

Sitting where I am on the FI-road it’s sometimes quite hard to read all these “wonderful” tales of ‘very successful’ FI’ers who all happily retired from the rat race in their early 30’s and are now all living happily ever after with absolutely no cares in the world.

I don’t doubt that there are many of them out there . I also don’t doubt that it is possible for most (or most) people to achieve regardless of where they live; but lets be honest – America is not South Africa.

Here in Mr Big’s neck of the woods we don’t have the same social safety nets available to the citizens of finely tuned, working 1st world economies (despite all their own numerous challenges and failings). No useful medical aid, no social security, no strong USD, no “move to a cheaper country” if the money runs out. Nope. Over here we really are on our own.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not throwing my hands up in despair and conceding It can never work for me here on the dark continent. All I’m saying is that this is not the USA or Europe . This is Africa and it’s a whole lot different out here.

That said, this is not Zimbabwe yet, so for now it is a free market economy, with some kind of democracy and pretty decent personal freedom. Much of what is suggested by the FI world can be taken on board and made to work here in a similar fashion. (But there does appear to be an opportunity for a South African MMM )

One of the most difficult things for me at present is the knowledge that I didn’t start this FI path much, much sooner. Sure, I’ve always saved, courtesy of my frugal-by-necessity parents, but now that I’m really close to severing these golden handcuffs I’m realising I could already have been free, had I only saved more!

Coupled to this are commitments we have made to C & B. Commitments to pay for their studies even if it means borrowing). I’ve had debt my whole life and while I have a job at least I can deal with it better than they are able. Their prospects of a standard corporate role (especially B) are almost non-existent. Starting out with a quarter of a million in student debt is not something I wish for them. (Perhaps this is our legacy to them?)

So yes, I bitch, I moan, I want out sooner rather than later, but I also want to honour these commitments. We’re fortunate that we can honour them without going upside down on our loans. We have the ability to sell up & settle and that’s more than can be said of many in this modern world.

So for a little while longer we need to remain in this ratty race, running along on the sidelines and under the radar. It’s another four years. We’ve made it this far, we can make it to the finish!

Dec 052015
 

Scapegoats, excuses, justifications.

It seems the world, and indeed South African society in particular, is all about the blame game.

20 years on and it’s still Verwoerd’s fault. It’s still my fault because my skin is white.

I’ve unjustly benefitted because of my “priviledged” background and so I must pay, in spades.

It matters not that the BigMan of the moment and his regime are actually the one’s to blame for the current state of the nation. No. All that matters is that his minions believe it’s still my fault.

This sorry state of affairs goes far wider than just South Africa. Look at America, it’s allies and the Terrorist State. Everywhere one looks there is trauma, bloodshed, self interest and resultant anguish.

Those in power fight their battles and the little people, black, white, yellow – it’s we who are left with the short straw. It’s we who suffer on the ground, live the effects of corruption, of violence, of self-serving corporates and governments.

We live in a world that has always been so – violent, peaceful, beautiful, filthy, corrupt, upstanding,  inspiring, depressing, greedy, benevolent, self-serving, charitable. It’s a world of stark contrast, of vastly differing beliefs and morals, of sublime happiness, of extreme pain.

It’s the way of the world and no matter how we lament the good or the bad of it, it’s ultimately out of our tiny circle of influence – BigMan or Small.

How we experience the world ultimately boils down to how we decide we will.

People generally appear to be self-serving bigots and racists – anything to further their own personal agendas. Some do it on a small scale – one-man-against-the-world style. Others do it on a macro scale – Mr Big and his political party, dictator of the world.

Why are the Wooly Masses so gullible, so blind? Why do they keep the BigMan in power? Why do they tolerate bigotry? Why do they not embrace each other as all part of the same species?

I cannot explain it. I cannot tolerate or change it. The best I can do is try and insulate myself from it. And yet it affects me all the same…..

And, as a result, I’ve resolve to set up my life to be as independant of it as possible. To keep a sea-ready sailboat, an inter-contenental escape-pod, ready to flee….. to flee…….but to where? Somehow I’m starting to identify more and more with Moitessier, despite his faults and lack of personal commitment.

 

Apr 082015
 

I spent this morning doing something I seldom do – reading the news online. I’m reminded why I seldom do!

While it’s never good to be a total ostrich [not really possible with the big issues in life such as corrupt politicians and power cuts] I see no sense in filling my head daily with what, in essence, amounts to an overdose of negativity.

One of the articles of this morning targeted the current power crisis in the country with an analysis of the causes and a postulation of the future actions needed to resolve the crisis. One of the suggested coming actions, besides ever escalating kWh charges, is an alarming increase in municipal rates to offset less electricity revenue to to high cost and unreliable supply.

This obviously affects everyone but more so the property investor with multiple rates bills.

And so, as usual, my thoughts turn to risk analysis and mitigation plans. How does one insulate oneself from this madness?

I think the answer is buffer, room to move, space between earnings and spending.

So what if the next radical and corrupt politician actually gets it right to nationalise all privately owned land and the banks? Or there’s a total economic meltdown and the banks fold with your buffer? What then? And the rabbit hole spirals endlessly downward…….!

See why I don’t do the news thing?

Mar 012015
 

While the rest of the world are rushing out and “investing” in generators for fear of how bad the rolling power outages may become we’ve taken a different tack.

For everything you acquire in life there is some logic in applying a return-on-investment thought process. Is it really worth the spend? Will one really use it? Is it worth the x hours of life I needed to spend shackled to the desk to earn the cash to buy it?

For that reason I’ve never got my head around the generator panic-purchase thing. It’s a fear-driven response to something, that while inconvenient, has never really effected me that badly. Sure, there have been the odd evenings when the power has gone just as we’ve fired up the oven, but they haven’t been so frequent as to prompt me to part with upwards of R8000 for a decently sized personal generation plant.

As Danger Dave once said “South Africans braai. We’re born ready for power cuts“.

Problem is the classic open-coal fire, while good for searing steaks, is pretty limited and very fuel-inefficient. One typically needs half a bag of charcoal briquettes to merely braai the chops for a family of 4. Do that every night and the charcoal costs start to approach the sticker price of a generator.

Enter a superb South African invention – The Cobb! Last night we grilled a 1.5kg beef roast on only 10 charcoal briquettes. Superb meal, totally off-grid and super fuel efficient. It’s small and portable and so, for us, doubles as a camping cooker as well as an easily portable oven for the yacht which, in winter, will double as a cabin heater. Money well spent.

Put your desired number of briquettes in the fire basket

Put your desired number of briquettes in the fire basket

cobb2

Once the coals are well alight pop in the roast and close the lid. Crack a good bottle of red and relax!

cobb3

After 2 hours of slow roasting we have a superbly done beef roast. Bon appetit.

 

 

Jul 172014
 

Winter is a difficult time! Watching the sun set below the western Johannesburg skyline as early as 17h30, waking to a cold darkness that only begins to feel the light of dawn by around 06h30 makes it hard to feel that life in the cubicle is not sucking all that is good.

I’m playing secretary and delivery driver much of the time on this current project. Organising ahead to ensure people are there to deliver to often has them saying to me “Anytime, I’m there from 6am” or “Of course yes, I’m working late tonight, here until 9pm“. The scary thing is that these are not isolated long work days for these people. This is the norm in the project/engineering industry. The comments are normally made in such a way as to garner firstly, a little sympathy, but secondly and most importantly, they seem to demand some kind of respect. It’s as if all this ongoing effort and 80hr work-weeks are somehow a badge of honour, an indication of their commitment to their career, their team, their corporate masters.

I don’t bother to reply at all to such nonsense anymore. Inwardly I just give a wry smile and plan to live my life as best I can while still in this cubicle hell. That means 40hr weeks, max, for this slave. Don’t expect me to deliver your documents by 6am on a cold winter’s morning. I have better things to do, a life to be lived, some better kind of balance to be struck.

Even though I pretty much have managed to achieve this particular form of balance in the last ten years it’s just not enough anymore. The pressures of even this 40hr work week and life in “the world class shitty” have worn me down. The last 2 weeks have been grim, filled with a myriad of obstacles and challenges to the good life, darker and colder than the depths of an arctic winter.

As a sailor there is one thing I am sure of. Storms will blow at the most inconvenient of times. They will test you to your limits, threaten the safety of the boat, take you to the edge of sanity. But then they are gone, the wind and waves calm and the feeling of satisfaction one feels having managed the yacht through the roughest of patches is a rare and awesome reward to one’s soul.

So too must this current rough patch, this life-storm come to an end.

Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York !”

Lets hope Shakespeare was right.

Jun 042014
 

JoBurg

No matter how much propaganda, how much marketing, how much telling yourself and the world that you are, it all means nothing without the evidence.

The evidence is there. Uncovered manholes in the streets, left that way for upwards of 2 years. Piles of rubbish, dumped by ‘world-class’ residents and left there to fester and rot by a ‘world class’ city. Crash barriers on the M2, damaged in a crash and left that way forever more. I could go on, but at the risk of working myself up too much, I’ll leave it at that.

Yes, the evidence is there! World class? If you’re comparing yourself to a world of scavengers and pigs, then I guess yes, the answer has to be ‘world class’.

Let’s get real.

This is “JoBurg, a world class African shitty”. And until it’s “leaders” change their mindset from self-enrichment to actually serving the residents, I’m afraid it’s on a one-way journey into becoming a world class rubbish dump!

May 192014
 

The old guy, the invalid, sitting in his wheelchair in the bus stop, piled up high in blankets. He couldn’t have done that himself. That means somebody had abandoned him there? That image is haunting me this morning. So much sorrow and hardship in this world and I have the gall to be dissatisfied with my luxurious royal life.

With so much need in the world, so much need right here on my doorstep, it’s hard to keep up. At every traffic light a beggar. How does one distinguish between the truly needy and the “give-me’s”? The “give-Me’s”. My word, I dislike the “Give Me’s”.

The tragedy and suffering touches even Brad, at the level of his friends. Broken families who have walked out on their teenage kids, leaving them to fend for themselves. Every now and again he notices and acknowledges the good life we live, the good life he lives.

But living in Jhb is making me cynical, hard and bitter. no, it already has. “City of Johannesburg, a world class African Shitty” !! Where everyone is on their own mission to enrich themselves and to hell with the impact on those around them. The neighbour’s gardener: “Eish. Sorrreee. I deedint know these was a house” while he’s taking a chance and dumping rubbish over the fence. The state hospital that is Jhb Gen. What a crock of shit. The missing manhole covers that have been that way for years. The ruling class and their million rand Range Rovers……!

And in the midst of all this it is possible to live a good life, but at what cost? It’s pretty much worn me out and, no matter the financial sacrifices needed, a move is on the cards and imminent.

But in the meantime it’s important to remain compassionate and charitable. The need on the streets is real and overwhelming. One can’t change the world overnight but you certainly can make a difference in one person’s life today.

 

May 132014
 

Yesterday I gave the ‘car-free’ life a good go but I must admit, I honestly don’t know if living without a car here is desirable.

Sure, I’ll agree, it’s doable, but is it desirable?

Yesterday was a wet, wet day on the Peninsular and the walk to Fish Hoek from Glencairn seemed to take forever. My mission – buy some slime for the MTB wheels. Maybe I should have taken the bicycle. That would have been quicker.

What was knocked off in a 20 minute run earlier the same morning takes eons longer when you’re walking.

Sam’s reply: ‘It’s all in your head’ is true, but it’s still hard to think of the limited time here and to be using up half a day finding slime seems somehow wasteful.

In the end, instead of walking back, I caught the train. The late afternoon saw me exhausted. Maybe it will be different when I really have time?

Apr 042014
 

A great part of being able to early-retire is frugal living and one of the key modern threats is the motorcar and specifically that sub-species the SUV. All that finance, maintenance and running cost could easily fast track your early retirement date by decades. Read any website devoted to spreading the ER dream and sooner or later you’ll encounter sentiment similiar to this.

I totally get the “ditch the car, ride a bike or public transport” thing. Totally do.

But here’s the thing. This is Johannesburg, not some first world city with good infrastructure and decent governance. It’s different here. Don’t get me wrong. I acknowledge that there is [some semblance] of public transport but honestly, in the interests of personal safety, I choose not to use it. Period. As for cycling – yeah, would love to but again choose not to at this stage because of safety concerns and distance to the office. You could argue “sell up and move closer” but that would quash our very last reason to live here in Jhb, in a house we’ve renovated and a view we love.

The same goes for the the whole ER research thing, 4% rules, first-world statistics and social security safety nets. It’s not the same here!

That said you may be thinking I’m just making excuses, opting out of the ER-Dream and the hard work it takes to step off the treadmill. Not so. All I’m saying is that you can’t just take USA-based case studies and dump them in Africa and expect everything to just work the same. There are huge differences between the two locations that require the hopeful ER’r consider and adjust to.

So no. I won’t be ditching the 2008 high-mileage 4×4 double cab any time soon. I will keep driving and maintaining it for as long as is financially viable. So MR MM and followers [of which I am one] – please don’t judge a book by it’s cover. When you see me driving the aggressive, pot-holed, life-threatening Jo’burg roads in my 4×4 you should probably first get to know me, my lifestyle, my reasons for my choices, before lumping me in with the woolly masses.

That said, I have to totally agree with the article link above. Some things are just excessive !