Today is the 42nd edition of our periodic guest post series called 10 Questions. We have a list of 17 questions we pose to fellow financial bloggers, and they are free to pick and choose 10 or answer all of them. Let us know if you would like to be featured in a future edition of 10 Questions.
Today’s post comes to us all the way from Germany. Or Scotland. Or Romania. Or somewhere not in the Continental or otherwise United States.
Mr. and Mrs. W are a young, Financially Independent couple living in Europe with their two children, minimal stuff, and an enormous sense of humor.
As most FI blogs are US-based, they provide a European perspective to this whole spend less, save more idea.
Enough of my own blathering, here they are, the Ws. (Warning: European spellings ahead…)
Tell me about your blog and why it’s great.
We are a Scottish-Hungarian couple aged 32, living in Germany with 2 kids (eighteen months old and 3 years old). While on the road to FI we realised that people around us don’t have this mindset and slowly we started thinking about ways to connect with like-minded people. We started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and we had a rough FI date in our Excel sheets. That’s when we first thought about starting a blog. We reserved our domain name but did nothing for about a year. In mid-2015 Mr W. started playing around with his Excel sheet and realised that we basically reached FI. Shortly after that we started our blog (http://whatlifecouldbe.eu/).
We don’t focus on one topic like: being frugal, investing in index funds or in real estate. We write about many things because we are doing many things: real estate, self employment, investing in the stock market, (some stock picking, some index funds) and most importantly starting and managing a (mostly passive) online business that is currently paying our bills.
Since we live in Europe, we want to write about some German/European specific issues (and not much about 401(k)s :)) but most of the topics are universal and our audience is global as well.
Tell me how you’re going to change the world with your blog (dream big or don’t dream at all!)
That’s very true! Here in Europe, the FI blogging community is pretty small. Maybe we can’t even talk about a community at the moment. That’s what we want to change. We want to help creating a community. We started the Financial Independence Week Europe (FIWE) which is going to be the first major step towards this goal.
What is FIWE?
FIWE is going to take place for the first time ever in Budapest, Hungary in July 2016. This first time, we invited bloggers from all around Europe (and some from the US) to come together and brainstorm about how we want to organise the event in the coming years while we eat and drink ourselves through the city. It’s all about having fun, getting to know each other, have a great time and start something really cool!
FIWE is not going to be a commercial thing. We are committed to making it a networking and educational event where we spread the world of FIRE among newcomers, help each other to understand what it’s all about and talk about different ways to reach FI.
Here is the official page http://whatlifecouldbe.
What goals do you have for your blog, short and long term?
I can tell you what goals we don’t have for our blog: we don’t want to make it a money generating commercial thing. We’re FI. In fact, we are more-or-less double-FI (real estate and online business) so really, our main goal for this blog is to create a community of like-minded fun people. If we meet one or two people that way, we are more than happy and we can say it was worth it.
With FIWE we want to start something bigger then us. Something that will spread the mindset of financial independence especially among young people. I believe that, if you start an honest project like this that’s fun-driven rather than money-driven, it is doomed to succeed! I am looking forward to all the fun and all the great people we’re going to meet!
What post are you most proud of and why?
The post that I spent the most time writing and meant the most for me is the one about our journey to FI (http://whatlifecouldbe.eu/
If blogging isn’t your full time gig, what is?
Our full time gig is raising 2 kids 🙂 That’s a hell of a job! But when the kids are not around I (Mr W) am a self-employed online marketing consultant (digital analyst) and ex-programmer. Mrs W is a self-employed German-English translator and full-time household manager :).
When you are 90 and look back on your life, what do you hope you have accomplished?
My main goal in life is to raise 2 healthy and happy kids while staying healthy as long as possible. Aged 90, when I look at my kids and see people who understand what true happiness really means, people who are financially free, happy and can focus on what’s really important in life, people who have a strong set of values that they embraced from us, then I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something.
What is the best money management or investment tool you have come across?
That’s a good question. While people in the US have great tools like Mint, Personal Capital and others, in Europe things look a bit sad. In Germany, there’s a service/app called Finanzblick that can connect to all your bank accounts and credit cards then categorises your spending automatically. It’s not the most ideal tool and there’s a lot of room there for improvement but at least there’s something you can work with.
Apart from that I discovered Wallet, an expense tracking app that’s multi-user, has a browser interface as well and even a smartwatch app to make it even quicker to track your expenses. In theory sounds like a cool thing but it has some serious bugs unfortunately that stopped us from using it. Hopefully they’ll fix it at some point and then I’ll give it another go.
My best friend is Excel!
How do you handle people with different views on money, ie spendy people?
Good question. In fact, my own brother has the exact opposite mindset and lifestyle to us so it’s not easy. In general we tell friends about our plans of reaching FI (we don’t really tell them we’re already there because we doubt that many people would understand). Those few of them who get it are the ones we hang out more with. To be fair though, we know many people who have a simple, frugal lifestyle and are happy with their lives without setting FI as a Goal. The World is not black and white and such thing as “perfect friends”, doesn’t really exist I think.
In general we don’t have much contact with spendy people who don’t get the idea and have an overly spendy lifestyle. Life’s too short. That’s why we started this blog and FIWE: to get to know more like-minded people who understand what we’re talking about.
Did you grow up with money? How did your money situation growing up influence you?
Mr W: I was born during communism in Romania. My parents were not exactly rich. They worked hard and put aside everything they could, frugality was normal. We always had enough to eat. I learned early on how hard it is to make money. My parents didn’t spend on unnecessary shit. They also started a small online business after the dictator fell. We went through years of extreme inflation (something like 150%/year) in the 90’s as well so all of that package definitely influenced me.
Mrs W: My parents earned a lot of money while I was growing up and we were never short on anything, but at the same time they were never spendy people. They could easily have afforded flashy cars and designer clothes, but they weren’t interested in those things. We didn’t really talk about money very much but from the time I was a teenager my mum gave me the family allowance money (about £80 a month) to do what I wanted with. Anything I wanted to do had to be covered by that money – if I spent it all, there wasn’t any more. My parents paid for the basics like food and my school stuff, but if I wanted to go to the cinema with friends or buy non-school clothes it was up to me to budget my money myself. It worked out quite well because I’m not spendy either. I never ran out of money and I managed to save quite a lot. As soon as I was old enough I got a highly glamorous after-school job washing dishes in a local cafe too to supplement the money my mum gave me.
Did your parents teach you about money as a kid? How so?
Mr W: In my childhood, there was this general atmosphere of frugality and hard-earned money so that put a stamp on me but they didn’t actively teach me. That’s what we’re going to do differently with our kids!
Mrs W: The only thing my mum actively taught me was when I was 18 and got my first credit card. She said I should charge something small and affordable on it every month and then always pay it off in full so that I would build up a good credit rating. I suppose it was sound advice, but I never ended up needing my credit rating in the UK.
What is your favorite style of beer – and what is your favorite beer in that style?
We’re wine drinkers. Red and dry. If possible, it should be Hungarian! In the summer white, dry and cold 🙂
We notice a lot of frugal people are into board games – what is your favorite?
Mr W: That would be CashFlow from Robert Kiyosaki. It’s a great game but unfortunately we can’t find people to play it with. So, here’s a thing: any reader who is interested in playing it is welcome to Stuttgart, Germany to our home for a dinner and game night! After the kids are asleep there’s going to be enough red wine to keep us happy for the duration of the game.
Mrs W: I like any game about general knowledge and/or words. I can’t play those kinds of games with Mr W though because he can’t spell :S
What is the best thing you’ve read lately.
Mr W: Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez. Recommend to everybody out there! Especially to those 9-5 workers and consumerist, spendy monkeys running around in shopping malls all their free time!
Mrs W: The sexily titled “Souverän investieren mit Indexfonds und ETFs” by Gerd Kommer. In Germany he’s the ETF god. The book is basically a German-specific version of The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein, which is also a wealth of information.
What do you do for exercise?
Mr W: Health and longevity is something that interests us a lot. We actually tried a low carb diet for a whole year. Now that we’re in Romania at my parents’ house we had to stop though…there’s just far too much pressure 🙂 Apart from that I go to the gym 3 times a week and work my ass off for an hour. I don’t love it, but I hate it when I don’t have access to a proper gym for an extended period of time.
I think that my body is not just something that I use to carry my brain around. Recently I found a website that tries to roughly predict the estimated age of death after you answer a series of health and lifestyle related questions. Apparently I’m going to live until the age of 95 🙂 (Mrs W got 99). If I believe that, I have to take care of my body. Plus it’s not just about living longer. I want to live for a long time AND be healthy!
Mrs W: At home in Stuttgart I force myself to go to the gym twice a week. I’d like to fit in a third session too but it’s not compatible with the kids unfortunately. I also plan on taking a lot more walks in the forest in 2016!
If you were president of your country what law would you change?
Mr W: I would completely change the education system and make sure to change at least these things:
- Teach more practical things. Every kid should be able to cook a meal, fix their bikes, make their own simple furniture and fix other easy things around the house.
- I would definitely make personal finance a mandatory subject. It’s just bullshit that you finish school and you don’t know how compound interest, stocks, index funds, and basic tax stuff works. We learned so much useless shit at school but we had no idea how credit cards work!
- People should learn more about environmental stuff so they’re more aware of the impact their mindless consumption has on the planet.
If you could wake up in someone else’s body whose would it be?
Mr W: I’d like to try Elon Musk. I’d love to be able to have the mind, power and infrastructure to come up with and implement revolutionary things that make a difference and make this planet a better place.
What three people would you like to go on an all-day drinking session with?
Mr W: I think I would really enjoy a day with Mr Money Mustache, Paris Hilton and Pope Francis. That would be a LOT of fun! 🙂
What is your advice to people just starting out on their path to FI?
- Understand what you really need and don’t spend on things you don’t need. Don’t buy stuff just because everybody else does.
- Save that money and use it as a safety buffer (invested or not) while you build up your own passive business (blog, community, website, online shop…whatever) after work.
- Make sure you don’t have a long commute and use the time after work to build up your business.
- Once your business is up and running and paying for all your costs, start or keep investing more in things you understand (learn about real estate and index funds).
A great big Danka to Mr. & Mrs. W for taking the time to answer our questions – and write a few of their own. Look for at least one of those questions in our next 10 questions series.
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