Another kind of surviving

My minimalist self has struggled with the idea of prepping, because by definition you are supposed to have stuff you may not ever need to use. And to keep extra items of food and so on.
My ideal is little stuff, and everything I have in good use. But I want to be prepared for different scenarios now. I’m just trying to think of a way to do it efficiently, with minimal stuff to store. And this stuff can be used for camping too, so it doesn’t need to just be sitting there.

Right now being prepped means we have food and everything we need with my daughter and cats, including my medicines, for a few months should it get really bad and we’d mostly want to stay inside, or “bug in” as the prepper saying goes. We have stuff to bake fresh bread with. We have some books, we have cookies and candy and soft drinks too. Yeah, I think those are important in a bug in situation ๐Ÿ˜€ Currently I have still gone to the store though I try to go as little as possible.

But I started to think about REAL prepping. For like the society starts to crumble, there is no water coming out of the tap and no electricity -kind of scenario. I also have another reason I started to think about prepping even before the corona pandemic.

After I told my STBXH I wanted a divorce and he flipped out and I had to ask him to leave, and he almost attacked me in his anger (and I’ve never seen him like that before so it was scary), I called my dad to come and stay the night with me and my daughter. STBXH came back the next day anyway, and I actually made a grab-bag, or go-bag. And I told my daughter to put aside the things that she would want to take if we have to leave – that if things got out of hand and he would start to yell again like before, I would just tell her that we are leaving, we don’t have to listen to this, and to then take her bag and get out with me, and if we couldn’t take the car I’d call a cab for us and we’d go to my dad’s house. I told her this without any panic, just as a pre-caution.

I haven’t talked to her about prepping now, other than the “normal” talk about stocking up on flour and yeast so that I don’t have to go out for fresh bread as I try to avoid contact with other people as much as possible due to the epidemic. It’s weird that talking like that is “normal” now!
But I will pack some clothing etc. for her and if ever a situation came that we’d have to leave fast, she would have to grab her important things then, but as she doesn’t have a lot of stuff I don’t think it’d be very hard.

So I kind of want to keep the lot of woody land I own with STBXH. If we sell it, I will think about buying another lot. It does not need to have a cabin or anything. I could totally live in a yurt or a large 4 -season tent. I’d build a fenced garden around it for my cats. I’d love it if it was by a lake or even a pond. The current land is one mile away from the nearest lake so not bad even though not ideal.

I’m not realistically expecting to having to live in a tent (unless I want to, for fun! Though I have actually thought semi-seriously about living in a yurt! ) but I guess spending time practically locked down in my home getting prepped better is like a mix between a new hobby and an insurance.
My practical skills include spinning yarn from various fibers, knitting and sewing with a machine or by hand. Those are activities that can produce income or be used to barter (in a truly serious shit-hit-the-fan situation), and they are a great way to pass the time and make sure we’ll have warm clothing.

So what does my survival kit include?

-A four-season tent
-Two person sleeping bag and self-inflating mattress
-Mosquito net
-Foldable water basin
-Small foldable wood stove
-Cooking pan set
-Two set of spoon, knife and fork
-Two water bottles with purification filters
-Water purification system with pump
-Fire making supplies
-Money belt
-First aid kit with essential medicines and wound cleaning spray
-Reflective tarp
-Freeze dried food packs with 25 year shelf life plus instant coffee (ha!) and dried fruit, nuts and candy
-Solar panel with usb outlet
-Flashlight and battery charged lamp, batteries
-A Bible
-Another book
-Merino wool clothing and sock and gore-tex shell clothing plus gloves
-The above clothing for daughter as well
-Toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, soap
-Cash (gold coins would be even better)
-My jewellery
-Important documents and papers
-Important phone numbers written down
-Knitting needles and a ball of yarn, thin so it will take a little space and take longer to knit to pass the time! Sharp needles are also useful for self-defence and so on..

These divided into two bags, one of which could always stay in the car. It’s good to have a first aid kit and change of clothing there, anyway.
If it were not possible to drive, I’d take the bag from the car.

The other bag could be a grab-bag at home, in addition to which I’d just take my phone and small shoulder bag with my keys and driver’s licence, plus a laptop.

What would you add?
Have you made any preps recently?

Survivors and superheros

Are you anxious about the coronavirus pandemic?
As a small business owner I noticed immediate impact as the incoming orders dropped drastically. Then our main factory closed. My retailers are struggling as well. The business is down a lot but expenses have to be paid.

Due to my chronic illnesses I’m at risk of developing a severe form of the illness.

STBXH is essentially “grey rocking” me – we only communicate about our daughter. He does not reply to anything else, even an e-mail I sent about a shared asset. So what he said when he wanted to file for divorce immediately so that we could divvy up the assets and it would help us concentrate on rebuilding our marriage with the financial stuff out of the way, was bullshit. But I knew it when he said it. I agreed to it because we were still living under the same roof and I wanted to stay as peaceful as possible and just could. not. deal.

I came to this epidemic situation with my head still spinning from the abuse and lies. Moving away with my daughter as the first news from Wuhan started coming in. I knew it was serious as I saw the pictures of the Chinese in full hazmat outfits, welding people in their own homes. But at first I thought that this may not get global, like the MERS and SARS previously. As soon as it spread to Europe, I knew it was really bad, really virulent. I took my daughter home from school before they officially closed, before they found the first covid-19 positive teacher in her school.

I went out and bought and ordered a bunch of food (and yes, some toilet paper as well :D) before the panic buying began. Having just moved and left all our pantry stuff with STBXH, I needed to stock up on essentials anyway.

Life just got weird for many people, but it was already weird for us. We already survived so much, our lives were blown apart, our hearts trashed to crumbs, our sense of normalcy and even reality twisted and bent out of shape.

I have a friend who is a nurse, who recently divorced and who has special needs kids. She’s a hero.

My daughter is a hero. There was her parents divorcing, her beloved horse sick for six months, and now this. She has still kept her faith and joy and trust. I pray that God always holds her tight.

There are so many people, risking their hearts and their lives for what is right.
There are generous, honest, humble people.

I know in my heart that something has changed in the world now forever.
On practical side I want to be prepared for anything, but most importantly I want to keep close to God and ask guidance for every step. I have to handle things with my business, yet I have to live quite isolated (I’m ever so happy that my daughter is a homebody too!). Some days I feel like I’m stuck on a loop just following news. I have to be mindful to tear myself away from it all and sit down to knit or pick up the vacuum cleaner -or my Bible. I bake about every other day now but cooking is a bit of a challenge as my daughter is very particular about foods she eats. I try not to stress about it though. At least we HAVE food. I don’t make her follow a schedule, she can do her school work as she pleases as long as it gets done, and it does.

I am glad that I’m not stuck under the same roof with STBXH. Spending all day every day in the same house would be very stressful. Even with all the stress from this situation, I feel less anxious. I don’t have this strange feeling of being constantly judged. I feel like I can breathe better.

I’m revising my financial plan a little. I sold the studio apartment and made a small profit. I’m still doing small fix-ups to the new apartment, but I think I will sell it also. My opinion is that prices will come down and I may then buy a home for myself and daughter with cash and still have some in investments for income. This apartment I just bought, is slightly bigger than what we actually need (though not too big) and if I can’t sell it for a profit I will keep it, rent it for a while and then move into it with my daughter.

I could pay off the whole mortgage with the money from the studio apartment, but I will keep 75k mortgage still as I have the interest rate cap of 1,4% so I’d rather keep some of the money as a buffer and to invest elsewhere. I just need to be really clear with myself that it’s NOT for spending randomly.
I will make new calculations and a plan and write about it later.
We own the large woody lot with STBXH. We were going to sell it but now I’d rather not. I don’t know how all this will pan out but I may ask to buy him out of it. It’s not an income producing asset, but they don’t make any more land. And it’s a hedge against inflation. And I can always live in a tent there if all goes to shit ๐Ÿ˜€ A new worst case scenario if you will! With God, I can survive anything.

Bought a new apartment

Yes I did. Just before the proverbial korona-shit fully hit the proverbial fan. I would have waited a little in retrospect… I will not concentrate on other aspects of the horror show in this post, but just tell about the apartment.

Alas, I decided to go with a 14-year interest rate cap, which means that the interest will not get higher than about 1,4% (the exact percentage will be set at the bank according today’s rate) for the next 14 years. If interest rates go up, I still pay the very low interest rate.
If I knew that there would be rapid inflation, it would make sense to keep the low-interest loan and let the inflation take care of it. But I think (my hunch only) there will first be deflation. Prices will drop. In light of this, I changed my plan.

I got a good deal on my studio when I bought it, and I got a good deal on this new apartment. The studio is in a much sought-out neighborhood and also very suitable to investors. So I decided that I would sell that one for a profit, pay off the loan (or most of it) I just got for the new apartment, renovate that one a little and then either rent it out or sell it for a profit. If I keep it, I may move into it later with my daughter. The studio got a lot of interest right away and I can hopefully sell it to someone who will want to keep it rented, so the tenant can stay. Renovating the new place seems like a fun thing to do and it will make it easier to rent or sell, and if I want to live in it later it will be how I want it.

So what is this new place like? It’s 860 square feet, originally 3 bedrooms but currently two bedrooms and a large living room ( it could easily be divided to create a third bedroom). It is situated in the old town of a small city close to the capital, so it’s value and desirability have staying power.
So really quite different from the 199 square feet tiny studio in the capital.

I’m pretty much self-quarantined at home with my daughter as I have pre-existing illnesses and want to be extra careful. I will do the painting myself and pick out tiles etc. but have a professional tile the bathroom and kitchen.
I spend perhaps a bit too much time reading the news and this is a good distraction.

So the corona virus pandemic changed my plan a little. As I think housing prices will fall later too, and even though my loan is not too big to handle, I’d rather not hold debt if the prices fall. If I keep the new apartment I may keep SOME mortgage as the fixed interest rate is so low, perhaps 50 or 75k instead of 150k.

If I don’t sell the new apartment right away, I may rent it furnished or semi-furnished. I’m going to let go of the place I rent for my business (and only distribute through retailers in the future, that was my plan pre-corona anyway, things just got expedited because of it) and there is some cool furniture that I can use for the apartment -and I don’t have to spend time getting rid of the stuff. Which is always a terrible drag.

So much stuff happening in my life and in the world that my head won’t stop spinning. I’m not scared though. All of this was foretold in the Book, folks!

Stay safe.

Starting over with barely any possessions

I’ve had to start over from owning practically nothing. Not this time, but when I got severely ill from living in an apartment with toxic mold. Since I had two chronic illnesses already, by body just reacted violently. We had to get rid of nearly everything because being around stuff from our old apartment made me vomit. Literally. I only kept a very few things with special meaning and put them in storage hoping to get well enough to one day not react to them anymore.

While this time I got to move out with all my personal belongings and a few pieces of furniture, there were still things that I had to purchase as I left the one we had to my STBXH. It didn’t make sense to pack and move the only frying pan we had since he’d have to go buy one then.

Separation and divorce always comes with a financial cost. The amount of money I’ve spent on buying the essentials makes me cringe a little bit, but I refuse to buy second-rate items for cheap if it means that I will end up having to re-buy soon, or that some impractical quality irritates me each time I use it.
I’d rather go without for a while and save up to buy the best quality I can afford.

Here are some things to consider when you are having to re-buy the essentials:

1. The VALUE of the item, meaning the ratio of years of satisfactory use to the money spent. If you spend 1200 bucks /euros/ pounds whatever for a good quality bed, you will not only save your back, but get to use the bed for say, 30 years. That is 40 euros per year or 11 cents per night. From a cheaper option you may get only 3 to 5 years of use before it starts to sag and you have to replace or suffer from back pain. And you end up paying more in the long run, as well as use up more resources and throw more used, saggy mattresses in the trash. And I say, if you find yourself sleeping alone because your cheater slept in someone else’s bed (or your bed, for that matter) – a good bed for yourself is a purchase you should make. Consider your needs and do a bit of research to find good quality that is reasonably priced.

2. The re-sale value of the item.
Meaning how easy it is to sell the thing if you no longer need it. If it is a high quality item, there is always someone who wants to buy it second-hand and you can get back some of the original cost and you keep this thing ending up a broken or unwanted piece of junk.
Yes, even mattresses are bought second-hand if it’s good quality and a mattress protector has been used! (I decided to buy my bed new and went with the highest quality that Ikea sells as I read many good reviews saying it compared to the luxury brands in terms of quality.)

3. Buy the item you need second-hand if you can. I make an effort to always look at internet second-hand sites and auctions first when I need something.
The value of stuff goes down the minute it’s carried out of the store, but if you get quality aรญtems, you can often re-sell them for the same amount you paid for them, and sometimes even more. So you have actually used this item for free, or made a profit! Selling your own used things is tax free income, so there is that too. The shelving system I have is really costly. I found a 1800 euro shelf for 150 euros. I could sell it for a lot more than that if I wanted to. This is not the only time this has happened. I have bought a design table for 160 and sold it for 400 and there are a few other items I actually made money selling. So, if you find a high-quality item for the amount you know you can re-sell it for, or even lower, it makes so much more sense to get that even if you could find a new substitute with no re-sale value for cheaper.

4. Buy multifunctional and adaptable things. Get a mixing bowl that you can use as a salad bowl and a serving bowl. Get a cordless led lamp that you can move around with you in your home and have light exactly where you need it.
Use a chair as a night stand, so it can double as extra seating. Get shelving that you can get extra parts for later, that you can take aparts, move and put together in a different way.

5. Buy once and keep forever -or as long as you need said item in your life.
Get solid wood and real metal and things that not only last for a lifetime and beyond, but wear beautifully. If you have to spend money, spend it on something that you get satisfaction using every day (or weekly) due to it’s functional qualities and if you are a visualist like me, because of it is visually pleasing. Embrace a bit of wabi-sabi ideology, start seeing aging and wear as more beautiful than shiny new non-used perfection. (And feel less stress about ruining said shiny new object because it’s not shiny and new to begin with!)

6. If your new home is not your long-term home, be extra careful about acquiring stuff. You don’t want to move around dragging tons of things with you. And not everything will necessarily fit in your next home so you’ll have to deal with getting rid of stuff again. And it’s always harder to get rid of things to acquire them. I hate moving when I have too much random crap to deal with. In contrast, moving is a breeze and can actually be fun (yes, it can!) when you only have things you need, regularly use and like. Packing is easy when you just pack everything instead of having to cull and make separate piles for keep-throw-donate-Idunnowhattodowiththis- you know the drill. Likewise, in the new home it’s nice to put things in their proper places when you can actually move around without boxes and bags and stuff blocking your way, and when you can actually fit everything easily in their new places in drawers and shelves.
So now is your chance to keep the crap-creep from taking place. Just corral it right out when it tries to make its way in. Refuse random freebies, don’t accept duplicates, don’t go overboard decorating. Especially don’t fall into the trap of decorating according to the latest trend. Do use this opportunity to think about what YOU want, what kind of things you enjoy using and seeing every day? If your ex’s penchant for all white shabby chic, collecting electronics or not caring one iota of how your home looked like was driving you batty, you are now free the choose another style. Many people feel a need for change in their surroundings anyway as it helps them forget about the trauma. Maybe you were a maximalist bohemian, but now you want to have breathing room and long for a much simpler and airier style. Or your ex’s preferred cold hard minimalism makes you cringe, so you want to have a cozy vintage armchair with a fluffy blanket and a cross stitch pillow from the thrift shop. You get to decide. But remember that you can create any style without tons of stuff. A few select pieces have more impact than lots of things crammed together.

Make your stuff count, make it efficient and something that gives you joy when you use it or look at it.

Ways of “forced saving” for spendthrifts

I don’t deny it. I haven’t been that great with money. There have been attempts, like the time over a decade ago when I first found the financial independence classic, Your Money Or Your Life. Wow!! Can this really be??
I got so excited about it. As a chronically ill visual artist who has also been called lazy, I dreamed of being FI. But when I looked at the interest rates offered by banks at that time, my enthusiasm sunk. I did keep a large sum of money on a 12-month high(er) rate account until we bought our first apartment (and consequently the only one we ever owned, but that’s another story) and got a few hundred of interest. Regular savings account interests were getting lower and lower and I had this idea that stocks, let alone bonds and more complicated financial instruments were out of reach for a regular citizen, and that only professionals or the super rich actually had access to them. Silly me, I could have just googled a little! Or like, asked around. Duh!
At that time I did the exercises in the YMOYL and I saw that despite my profession and long-term illness I’d still managed to receive and squander a significant amount of money. And as my artist career was looking promising, I did have some earning power, and in the form of my paintings I actually had created wealth too.

Yes, that oft mentioned hindsight.. Sigh.
As I deduced that while YMOYL was interesting and theoretically worked in a high-interest environment, it was not valid anymore. So I gave up. I quit writing down my expenses (it may have happened after some big purchases that I didn’t want to see written down) and generally forgot about the whole FI thing.

I received a small inheritance when my mom passed. I didn’t instantly spend it and I shared with my husband (soon to be ex-husband) but I didn’t invest it. So my current wealth has nothing to do with inherited money.

Now, I’m a pretty smart person, but with money I have certainly been stupid. It’s like I don’t know simple math. A five bucks here and a twenty there, so on and so on, ADDS UP to a large sum spent. Likewise, a five bucks saved or earned ADDS UP to a large sum saved, and even larger if it is invested and has time to compound. I still struggle with this.

I also struggle with “all or nothing” attitude. I’m either super diligent and frugal, or I get careless and spendy. The middle-of-the-road is very hard for me.
So the goal now is to keep myself in check, be smart and careful with money in general, and really think about each purchase or expenditure, and when I need to buy something, do research and buy the highest quality I can afford, so that I don’t have to replace the thing hopefully for a very long time, nor do I get the urge to upgrade because I originally went with the cheap option instead of the more expensive quality item I really wanted. If I end up buying that anyway a little later, I’ve wasted money and resources.

But what have been the ways I have been actually able to hold on to money?

There are two main ways that have worked for me. The first one is my own business. Investing in it has honestly felt more like “spending” insofar that it has not felt like a drag at all, and I haven’t really realized it, but the growing value of my company is money. The inventory we keep is easily liquidated by just selling it. The company has intellectual property as well which raises it’s value were I ever to sell it. But even if that would never happen, there is a lot of money tied to the inventory that I could turn into cash. Which is what we do anyway, but then I’d just do it faster and not invest any more back.

So owning a company and growing it’s value builds up equity that is safe from spending it.

The second way is that when I had actually made a larger sum of money, I bought a tiny studio apartment that I keep rented. My husband did put some cash into it as well. Now I’m again putting a chunk of money to another apartment, this time I’m getting a loan from the bank though and not paying with cash only. When my money is tied up in apartments, I can’t spend it. With the second apartment, the person renting it is paying down the mortgage and creating equity for me. (I do live in a rented apartment myself. I may buy a place to live in at some point, but for now it was not smart ar I live in an expensive area with my daughter and the studio apartment is way too small for the two of us.)
Both apartments have been good finds. The real estate market has been getting really tough for investors here for the past years, meaning such high prices that it’s difficult to find anything that will give returns. But by following the market it’s possible to make good finds. The prices can come down some before these apartments would become less valuable than what I paid. If I keep them rented to create cash flow, it doesn’t really even matter that much. I may sell them for profit though at some point and find new underpriced apartments to buy.

Because real estate is not sold with one click of a mouse, it’s a way to hold on to your savings, as well as create income.

What is your financial worst case scenario?

Suddenly on my own, in order to ease my worries about financial security I asked myself “what if..” What if I find myself unemployed, my business making no money?

My “worst case scenario” plan is to live in the 199 square foot apartment, which would cost 80 euros (you can substitute dollars) per month, including water and the use of communal laundry room. I’d spend 20 euros for electricity. I could eat with 60 euros per month, and have a phone and internet for 35 euros. I’d make my own clothes and shop second-hand, so that would cost 5 euros a month (as I already have fabrics and yarns to make enough clothes for the rest of my life, eh.) I do need regular medication, but I could survive on 220 euros per month! You could argue that I could lose the internet connection and use free internet at the library, but let’s just give me some slack ๐Ÿ˜€ I love my internet!!
Now, if I was also providing for my daughter, it would be a little more (and the space would sure be tight, but doable – like a tiny house but an apartment). Let’s say I’d feed her for 80 euros (because she is pickier than I am and I’d want to get her an occasional treat) and spend a generous 120 euros for her other needs and hobbies and her cat if we still had one. I’d make her clothes myself or buy second-hand ). That would be 400 euros a month to keep the two of us under a roof, clothed, fed and entertained. That’s 125 000 invested with a 4% net interest to live on if I could make absolutely no money working. Or 170 000 with a net 3% interest if you want to be safer. The investment could be either a rental apartment or dividend stock, or both. If the economy gets really bad, owning real estate would be a safer bet, if the location is good, because people do need to live somewhere. So that looks like a 170 000 e apartment rented at 3% profit after expenses and taxes. Or the same amount invested in dividend stocks. Or 85 000 apartment and 85 000 stock portfolio.

I’m about to buy a second apartment and I’m thinking of getting a 14 year interest rate cap. It may seem silly because the rates have been so low fora while now and they might stay that way, but 14 years is also a long time and even with the cap, the interest rate is low, approximately 1,35%. So I have a guaranteed 14 years to pay off the apartment with the low rate. The peace of mind is worth it to me. I got a pretty good deal on the apartment, and it’s possible that it might be our home at some point. If the real estate prices down plummet soon, I might try to sell it though for a bit of profit. I’m putting 15% cash and the rest is loan for 20 years, but I may pay it off after 14 years if the interest rates have climbed a lot.

Anyway, if I own two apartments, I can always live in one and rent the other.
If I keep the new apartment long term and finances allow, I might buy a third one later specifically for us to live in. The proceeds from selling the land will go towards a third apartment or invested in the stock market. One could argue that land is good to own as they don’t make more of it, and it would be possible to even live off grid in there if things got really tough.. so that is something to think about. I’m not in a rush to sell it, but we do own it together with SBTX so something needs to be done about it at some point.

So when I get anxious feelings concerning how I will survive long term, I just think about how little I actually need to not just survive but live a content, quiet life. And I would choose living in the tiny apartment over working 40 hours a week plus commute but a big apartment and money to spend any day, no question about it!

Now, you may be starting out on your own with nothing. Or worse, you may have to pay child support to your cheater! And that is so unfair. But there are always steps you can take towards financial security and independence. You can drastically downsize and reduce your spending and start saving. Don’t carry consumer debt, pay that off first. So when (and I actually do think it’s just a matter of time) the economy crashes, you’ll be in a position where you have choices. If the real estate crashes, you can perhaps buy a small place or a piece of land where you can build a tiny house. Or you can invest in the stock market when everything is cheap. Having no debt, and better yet, having savings, will give you options many others do not have then.

Your worst case scenario plan may be moving to your parents’ house or your brother’s basement, living in an RV or a yurt! Use your imagination, think outside the box of societal norms and don’t get stuck on hopelessness.

How I invest in the stock market

Now, I’ve had a long and hard talk with myself about investing in stock. Note that I’m in nowhere near an expert in investing , stock market and finances, I’m only writing about what I do and what works and does not work for me personally. I need to have a solid plan, not just randomly buy and sell. I should not look first and foremost at the monetary number, the value of my portfolio, as that can go up and down. If I invest in companies that I want to “own”, I should think of them in terms of ownership and the income it generates being almost like an owner of a company (it’s often said that by owning stock you own part of the company, but technically you own voting rights and the right to receive dividends. Just like when you “own” an apartment it usually means that you own shares in a company that owns the building, and those shares give you the right to use your apartment). When the stocks go down, I should see that as an opportunity to buy more shares for less money. After all, if the value of my own company went down, but I obviously still believed in it and wanted to support it, I would not sell my shares in a panic. I’d know that the fundamentals are solid and that what is going on is not a fault in my company, but general down times as all the other companies are more or less seeing the same effect. Even in hard financial times, while the dividend income may be lesser, it won’t go away, and it will bounce back and then I will have more of the dividend paying shares.

I should invest in companies that I believe in, which products I use myself, and which pay dividends to share holders. What does that look like in practice? It goes like this: “Hey, Fiskars’ share is down like everything else this week. Fiskars makes the best scissors in the world IMHO. It’s an old, solid company and people always need good scissors. I think I should invest in Fiskars, it’s a stock I’d like to own long term. I think I should buy shares for my daughter too, she uses her Fiskars all the time and this is a good stock and company to teach her about investing!” Click click click. Yeay, now I have another good reason to buy a Fiskars knife (which I really need as I own zero sharp knives and can’t even cut carrots until I get a knife..) because I should support the company which stock I own by choosing their products!

Other companies for me to invest in are ones providing for general needs like electricity. It’s better for me to stay away from highly specialized companies whose business I don’t understand. I have invested in initial offering of an ethical shoe company, because I wear and love their shoes and while ethical clothing is becoming more available, it has been very hard to find ethical shoes! Oh, and they have a Star Wars licence. Almost all my shoes are from them. So occasionally I may invest in a start-up or growth company if I really believe in what they are about.

While mine is not strictly “buy and hold forever”-tactic, I aim for less random trading. Which is hard for me as a spontaneous person. (Thus, the real estate strategy!) In the end, the thing I look for is income – how much cashflow I get from my investments as dividends and rent. While building wealth to reach FI, there can be some buying and selling and re-allocating if opportunity arises to make money that way, but it makes sense to buy dividend stocks when they are cheap and hold on to them!

*I started writing this post four days ago. Today the stock market is pretty much red all over. I believe the slide will continue and this is just a start of a crash. I’ve thought for a while that the stock market is in an unsustainable bubble and something is going to pop it soon.
Is it the corona virus pandemic? Could be. I’m mostly out of the stock market at the moment (holding only some high dividend stocks), so I’m just looking with interest at how this will develop. This is a good time to save up, in order to buy when prices will get more sensible.

A Prayer for the Wild at Heart, Kept in cages

We think slavery is abolished. Or we may agree that modern slavery exists in developing countries as child labor and human trafficking, but we think that in western societies people are free.

Because: โ€œWe hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.โ€

ut what is the liberty we have? It’s not the kind of liberty I want to be “free” to work 40 hours a week on a job I hate. I don’t understand the pursuit of happiness as being able to shop for things I don’t need or travel twice a year to somewhere I deem exotic. Nor do I think it means having the right to behave immorally, cheating on your spouse and breaking your marriage vows, discarding the one you promised to love forever in exchange of “searching for happiness” in someone else’s pants.

I have had exactly one full time job in my life, which I lasted about four months. I was asked to stay longer, but I could not. I did study math and for University entrance exams, and I just didn’t have the energy to do that with a day job. I remember vaguely the exasperation I felt on Sunday evenings, knowing the work week was beginning in the morning.

I tried to work part-time while I was in The University, and did so as a waitress in a cafeteria for about six months. But I found it hard to combine with studying. If I worked, I didn’t have the energy and organizational skills to study when I wasn’t working. I got depressed and subsequently ill with a chronic disease (besides depression).

The job I liked most was one of my first ones, cleaning an office. I got paid for a calculated three hours (or was it four, I forget!) work, but it did not matter if I spent 30 minutes doing it, if it was well done. And it was, I got compliments on collecting the used coffee mugs from the rooms and washing them, things I didn’t have to do. I could go and do the cleaning any time after working hours on Friday and before Monday morning. Nobody was looking over my shoulder while I did it, there was no hurry, it was simple and there was no risk of failure. Later when I was in the University, I tried to get a cleaning job but didn’t because apparently I didn’t have enough experience or something. Oh well. All the jobs I ever had I got through acquaintances. If I applied by myself, I was never hired. Talk about an ego-boost…

I never completed my University studies, but after spending some time doing voluntary work abroad, I started in the Art school and I loved it. We had to be there at 9 AM or we were given hell. The teachers were passionate and cared about our progress and learning. It was very different compared to the Uni, where nobody cared if I showed up or not, if I took my exams or not.
The structure worked for me because I loved painting and drawing, there were no exams where I had to memorize a bunch of stuff just for the sake of passing a test.

So I became an artist. I have also taught myself many craft skills, I know how to sew, knit, spin yarn and so on. (Actually I learned to sew and knit from my mother.) I wanted to do textile design so I taught myself to use Photoshop and make repeating patterns. I wanted to publish a book and I taught myself to use a platform for that. I found print houses and started a business. Now, while I still have my business, my aim is to be free from having to work at all and have my assets work for me. I have enough assets, but it will take a while to re-allocate them more efficiently so that everything is creating income instead of just sitting there. I will keep working on business a little, and I will keep painting and writing and doing things I want to do and if they create a bit of extra money, that’s great.

If I can’t do things I’m passionate about, if I can’t rest and have enough quiet time my introvert soul needs, I suffer. So because of my highly independent, introverted and passionate spirit AND my chronic illness, a 9-to-5 job would totally be a prison for me.

There are people who like to have a boss who tells them what to do and we need all kinds of people. But if you are like me, being tied down to a job may feel soul crushing. If you have a lot of debt, you can’t not work even if you really hate your job, but if you have saved and invested and become financially free, you have an option to quit and find a better job. Or no job at all. It’s wonderful!
Likewise, you may feel trapped in an abusive marriage with no way out. You have been a trusting spouse, worked at home (and house work and raising kids is work even though it doesn’t pay anything. Just try to get someone else to clean your house and watch your kids, and see if they think it’s work or not..).

If this is you, start with making a plan. I’ve come across people who have studied and got a degree in secret in preparation to leave their abuser. Some have saved and socked away money slowly for a few years. They talk to a lawyer and “get their ducks lined up”. But in the end, you have to bite the bullet, make the jump. It’s scary as hell. But freedom is waiting for those who refuse to stay shackled any longer. It may not be possible immediately, but it will be eventually. And sometimes it happens, that if you take a calculator and add up all your assets and all your expenses and liabilities (things that cost you money, like a mortgage or car payments and other debt), and look at how much money you can get from selling excess possessions, how much you can save by moving somewhere cheaper and cutting frivolous spending – you may even find yourself happily surprised and already there!

This little bird wants to have a song in her heart, she wants to smell the ocean air and have the wind ruffle her feathers. She does not want to stay in any cage, not matter if it’s made from gold and precious stones.

Saving and investing you money instead of spending will buy you freedom.
If you have a job and you are willing to save 70-80% of your income for 5 years, you will have bought your freedom from working ever again. If you don’t have a job and have no savings or assets you can sell, you need to make a plan to find some work. The higher percentage you can save and the lower you can get your expenses, the sooner you are free.

Some people choose to stay in abusive marriages for the financial security, Some people choose to work until they are 70 so they can keep spending their whole paycheck on stuff. You can choose to live in the cage and some people live in them because they are so accustomed to being caged that they don’t see it.
You can, but you don’t have to.

If you opt out, you will likely get weird responses. I’ve been called lazy for not working (when I was also sick) and people have thought that I wouldn’t amount to anything when I didn’t get my University degree finished. But I don’t care about receiving status or fame or having a “career”. I care about my freedom and I care about the state of my soul. I care about my relationships and I care about not robbing this earth of resources and using them beyond my needs. I care about learning to differentiate my wants and needs, to question my actions and thoughts, and I care about living with integrity and passion and honesty. When I live this way, I have come to succeed in a few things as a result.

So who wants out?

One easy way to be better prepared than Yours Truly

I’m not going to lament the mistakes I made but I’ll share with you so that you don’t have to fall into the same trap.

When I was completely clueless about being cheated on, it made sense to trust in my marriage and believe when my husband said that I didn’t have to worry about money, I didn’t have to work much due to being ill, and it was agreed upon together that it was best for our daughter if I stayed at home with her. I trusted my husband more than myself. We’ll never get divorced, I thought. Little did I know that my husband started an affair with a co-worker (let’s just call her ho-ho for short) right after our daughter was born. She was also married and they intended to keep it as an affair only. Until ho-ho got divorced and my husband decided to divorce me as well so that they could be together, at which point he was still denying having someone else. He was just unhappy in our marriage! I proceeded to bend over backwards trying to think of all the ways I could make life easier on him and better myself as a wife.

Silly me, I thought I could make it all better. How could I, as I had nothing to do with him cheating in the first place. As it turns out, cheaters cheat because they feel they are above the rules that apply to others. They know the moral codes and right and wrong, they just don’t care. They feel they are special and entitled to things they would never allow to others. My cheater was very conscious of his feelings being hurt and he knew how to talk in order to sound like an upright person.

I found myself in a situation where I was chronically ill, thus unemployable, with an education in fine arts, and with a child who needed me a lot. I didn’t have a plan because I never thought I’d need one in a million years.

I had gotten a small inheritance after my mother passed away tragically, and I made a little money from my art.
I thought about what else I could do to make some money, and I started a small business and learned new skills to do it better. I decided to become super smart with the money I made.

After living apart some time, my husband suddenly decided he didn’t want to divorce after all. I was mentally ready to let him go, so of course he couldn’t allow that! I took him back. I decided that I wasn’t going to live expecting things to go wrong again. I wanted to trust him even though he had proved himself untrustworthy and capable of being cruel to me. I guess it was also easier on me to not live in a state of constant hyper vigilance.

I never was very good with money. I kept working on my business because I was into it, but I didn’t intentionally prepare like I would have, had I known that our marriage would fall apart after all a few years later. (But had I known that, I wouldn’t have taken him back in the first place.. )

So my advice is this: If you are trying to reconcile with a cheater -even if you think you are really sure he has changed and you will be one of the rare couples can stay happily married after infidelity – please, please cover your back. Take charge of your own finances. Ask for a post-nup stating what will happen if you end up divorcing anyway. (If the cheater is so sure he won’t cheat again, he should have no problem signing a post-nup!)

I don’t deal very well with stress. Okay, stress is terrible for me and it aggravates my illnesses and makes me anxious and miserable. It does not propel me forward. My business has made some money and I was able to buy the tiny apartment I’m renting out. In the divorce I’m keeping my business and the apartment and some land, which I have plans to sell and buy something else that will generate income instead of just sit there. I’m better off now than the first time he filed for divorce. I’d be even better off had I been less careless with money during our reconciliation (or “wreckonciliation” in chumped-speak.)

I like my little business and even though I’m not totally against selling it at some point, I now use it to make some money and because the work I do is something I enjoy. What I’m focusing on is arranging things so that I can only work as many hours as I want to, and I don’t have to do the kind of work I hate doing but concentrate what little energy I have for the creative side of my business. As long as I feel like my work is fun, and I make more money with my business than it takes to run it, I’m all good with it. But it by no means identifies me.

My daughter has an expensive hobby (without which we also wouldn’t need a car), so her dad who makes a lot of money, pays a good child support which covers her hobby and a large part of her other expenses. She is luckily quite anti-materialistic! I have started a stock portfolio for her and I try to teach her about handling personal finances in a way that she can be financially independent early on.

My expenses are rent, food, phone and internet, insurances and pet food for our cats. I sew and knit most of our clothes. We rarely eat out, perhaps once a month we get take-out pizza and once a month I see a friend for coffee or lunch. Sometimes it’s not even that often. I invite friends over and I visit them. The company is important, not where we are at.
I don’t drink alcohol (I’m not an absolutist and I may have a glass of wine with dinner when visiting family if I’m not driving but I don’t go out to “party”) and my work is pretty much my hobby as well. Which works out nice, if it makes some money it’s great, and if it doesn’t I had fun doing it!!
I don’t have a TV as I don’t watch it. And there is some free stuff to watch on the internet anyway. I rarely go to movies. I usually get a few tickets for Christmas so I never spend money on that either.
I have low energy due to my illness and I love quiet times at home, knitting, reading, taking a nap, walking to the beach nearby.. I don’t need a lot of money. So I came to realize that after some shuffling of assets, I am financially free now. And I’m finally free from an abusive relationship.

I’m digressing now, but my point is this: Be prepared! Start working towards independence, it will not hurt and may be extremely useful. It will help you feel in charge of your life in any case.
Having enough money allows you to walk out of an abusive relationship more easily or quit a job you hate. Money buys you freedom, and that is the greatest thing you can buy with it.
Right now, my daughter is home on a school holiday (and last week she was home on thursday and friday due to having a cold). Yesterday we baked together, She doesn’t have to be home alone when she is sick or on a holiday, nor do we need to go on expensive vacations to enjoy ourselves.

I chose to stay with her when she was younger, and I want to continue to spend time with her and swend her off to school in the morning and most days be there to welcome her home. I could have been smarter about my finances earlier, but hindsight is 20/20. I’m still thankful for all the things I DID do and the things I chose NOT to spend money on even though I have been much too careless with my money. There are a couple of things that pretty much saved me from spending everything – stay tuned and I will talk about those things and what to do if you are like me who has always had money “burn holes” in their pockets -meaning that it’s been very difficult to hold on to my money for any significant period of time!

5 Wrong reasons to stay in an abusive relationship

Sometimes we stay because we don’t know we are being abused. Sensitive people (and we who were chumped, most often are sensitive people) may be feeling unwell for a long time without having the faintest whiff of something fishy. We may be anxious, depressed, or even physically ill. Some of us are genuinely happy and clueless. The reality that rips our life apart and our heart from the chest comes as a shock.

So now we are faced with choices to make. How to react, what to think, is it better to walk out or let the cheater walk out, or is the relationship salvageable? Well-meaning friends, relatives, church members and pony club mommas all chip in with their advice.
My advice is not to put too much weight in any of their opinions if they have not walked in your shoes and experienced something similar. Even if they have, it’s your life and your decisions to make. You have to decide what is acceptable to you and draw your own boundaries.

Here is a list of common reasons why people stay in an abusive marriage:

1. They think the cheater is reacting to having a bad time and feeling bad but they are really a good person who can be made to see the error of their ways.

Why it’s wrong: If the cheater chose to repeatedly sleaze around behind your back and lie about it for weeks / months / years then she or he has been acting very deliberately. And he knows it’s wrong, because why else hide it from you?

2. The think marriage is sacred and their church pressures to “forgive” and keep the marriage together.

Why it’s wrong: Yes, marriage is serious and to me it is sacred. Obviously it isn’t for the cheater. He broke the marriage bond of two becoming one flesh, by becoming one flesh with a third person. And that is also physical abuse in addition to being mental abuse. He was intimate with the town bicycle and then came to our marital bed. It’s also noteworthy that forgiveness is a separate thing from reconciliating or staying married. You can forgive, which to me means that I don’t harbor ill will towards him but give him over to God to deal with. It doesn’t mean that I stay around for more abuse. More about biblical divorce on a separate post as it is a large issue by itself.

3. Divorce is tough on the kids.

Why its’ wrong: Kids are not stupid, and if they take after you, they are probably sensitive. They may well feel bad without knowing why. If you don’t tell the kids about what your spouse has done, you are lying to them by omission and not living honestly. You become an accomplice in his/her wrong doings. If you tell them or they find out in another way, and you still stay, the kids will get a twisted idea about how relationships work. I do not want my daughter to think that it’s a woman’s place to keep taking infidelity and abandonment and gloss over his criminal activities. That is insincere as it is contrary to my values. The kids deserve the truth, told in a way that is appropriate for their age, without going into details. Just like you deserve the truth in order to make decisions for yourself.

4. Losing money or fear of not making it on your own financially.

Why it’s wrong: You are not for sale, your integrity is not for sale. Sometimes it is necessary to perhaps wait a while if your situation is truly sucky financially. You can still start making preparations to leave. But to stay married because you will lose half of your assets, or if you are the spouse making very little dues to having stayed at home with kids or being ill or something – it’s not worth it. It is soul killing.
I stayed at home with our daughter, who has mild neuropsychiatric symptoms and was very clingy from early on. It was a choice that was natural and we both thought it was the best for her. I’m chronically ill, AND my education is in the fine arts. I could work from home a little as time allowed. But I’m basically unemployable (heck, I wouldn’t hire myself knowing my health condition!) My husband however makes a lot of money. How it all works out for me, is a subject I will be writing about in this blog.

5. Fear of being alone for the rest of your life.

Why it’s wrong: You don’t know what will happen. Even if you stay married, you may be suddenly widowed. (As is it is, MANY chumped and/or dumped spouses say that it would have been much easier to be widowed. You would have at least got to keep the good memories. Now your memories and sense of personal history has been destroyed, and you may have to be in contact with the cheater because you have kids together.)
You can be by yourself and alone and still not lonely. Those are not the same thing. You still have your children, family friends, pets. If you truly have no-one, you can make new friends. And who knows, maybe you will one day be buying eggs to bake a cake and you bump into a person and while he helps you clean the broken eggs and salvage the rest, he asks you on a date. It could happen.

Don’t take any more abuse. Give yourself a chance. Nobody deserves abuse, and there is no ifs and buts about it, infidelity is physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Lying is emotional abuse, and all cheaters are also liars, as it is impossible to cheat without lying. There may be other kind of domestic abuse going on as well.
Don’t stay for more soul rape.

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