Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Essence de mildew

You'd think after working on and renting out the last victorian apartment up in Southport we'd be done with old properties for a lifetime. Not so though it would appear, that would be far too smart...(rolls eyes) 

Oh contraire...heaven forbid we were to buy a fairly modern place we could simply roll up and move into. 

Fact is one can only spend so much of ones retirement progressing up the duolingo league tables, playing old classic Grieg tunes on the piano or swinging a golf club so many times before one gets another hankering to once again fill ones lungs with that now familiar heady concoction of dust and mold. 

Walking through the door to the retch-inducing toxic essence of eau de musty...how could we not miss all that?

So, once more into the breach we go..

Our muse this time is a 130 year old, 2 bed townhome/terrace here in Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

Buying a property in the covid environment is now, it has to be said, incredibly tricky. The market here on the Isle of Wight generally has gone seven shades of insane in the membrane (hahaha you see what I did there? I got a damp-proofing membrane joke in. That's old house renovation comedy right there)

It seems a bunch of folks from London have been given the green light under covid to work from home and have decided to take the opportunity to cash out of there and move here. En masse. The Bentley convertible count has literally gone through the roof. It's madness.

...and boy can these folks throw money around. Yeesh. Talk about making it rain. Pretty much every house you go look at get's bid up into the stratosphere way beyond any shade of actual valuation. Leaking roof? Woodworm chewed floorboards? Zero modernization? Doesn't matter, the asking price still get's bid up insane here in our new little part of the world. Fk. You can find yourself renting forever in this environment.

So we kinda dropped lucky, our place has no central heating, old windows as well as the as-stated old familiar eau de rancid musty mildew. It's the only way you actually can get a chance of a decent buy here. It's pretty much a combination of luck and buying something nobody in their right mind would want to live in. 

Ok I exaggerate a little here...ours is maybe not so bad. Hopefully(nervous laugh)

So far we have woodworm evidence, no airbricks (leading to decades of moisture with nowhere to go) corroded wall ties, rotted floor joists and maybe some roof leaks we need to fix. That's us just getting started, already makes the Southport pad look like a walk in the park. Facepalm.

Still up for the challenge? 

It'll be right, let's get stuck in. We'll discover more issues with Chez White Elephant as we go along no doubt but for now it's the usual whack-a-mole issue solving.

This week we tore the inside of the bay window area off and started with the re-pointing of all the brickwork, at the same time we discovered some rotten joists and floorboards but on the positive we also found gold. Some original 130 year old victorian paneling that we can re-use. We can bring the house back to it's original style again, similar to our path in Southport. Check out this pic, the panels most likely got painted in the 70's judging by the color scheme:-

As for the remainder we've chosen to start re-adding refurbished period features back in to the property:-


So you can maybe see how this is now beginning to hot up into an exciting new project for this re-retirement era. The most important lesson is definitely to pace it though, not like last time where we got through it as fast as we could in order to start getting our UK passive income stream going before heading back to the USA.

On that same subject Southport has been rented out since march this year and all seems so far so good, the tenants appear happy enough with the place and we are now at least able to use that income in UK pounds to pay our UK gas, electricity, water, council tax overheads and free up the USA income for our groceries and savings. 

But pace this one we will, taking our time and making the project work on the house just one part of our busy retirement weeks. So yeah the French lessons on duolingo will continue, as will the golf lessons, the piano dabbling, cycling, running, hiking and the gouache artwork. Eventually progressing towards volunteer work for any local charity organizations. Point is we have no plans to get burnt out on house DIY work once more destroying all the fun so we'll be taking days off a lot more than ever. A lot less tiring this way.

This time we can do that though, we have the luxury of a 6 month apartment rental in East Cowes we can retreat to in order to regularly clear our lungs of the dust and must. The plan right now is to be in the Cowes place by Christmas and drop the East Cowes place, maybe even sooner if a covid lockdown happens again for some reason.

The plan is also that this time around the property is for us to live in. Not a rental for a change like the Southport and Savannah properties. A nice small place with low overheads in the sailing community of Cowes for the long term.

Within easy reach we have the beautiful turquoise waters of Freshwater Bay:-

Or even the Needles among a great many other attractions all on one little island.

The strange irony is that if we'd stayed a moment longer in Oklahoma we'd never have got this property, in fact any extra money earned beyond our June au revoir date would have been negated by having to pay more for a property here. Perhaps a ridiculous amount more. Sometimes we really understand the idea that everything happens for a reason and each moment has it's time.

So in conclusion that's it for this update, we'll keep you updated on the progress of our Chez White Elephant as and when we can slot it in between all the other retirement activities we've been slowly accruing. This time around life has definitely gotten a lot more hectic and our plates are now most definitely full compared to last time.

This is what retirement is now all about, being busy if you choose to be but also having the flexibility to do none of the above also if you so choose. Nice to have finally figured that out this time around.

Until next time..

Love to all,


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Cut yourself some slack

Pretty much everywhere you look at the moment there seems to be dividend investors either licking their new reset wounds or burying their heads deep in the sand and denying it's all happening. 

Or that other statement that the cut is "for the good of the company" and will be right back up there in a decade or so, like you're somehow working there, leaning on the photocopier talking to a colleague rather than an investor.

At DD4L we've been through the gambit of these emotions quite extensively for the past few months. The issue we quickly realized was that we were taking the resets personally, or at least our investing ego was. There was even a guilt attachment to the outcome, like it was all our fault. The shame of it, what were we thinking? Morons.

Investing ego is a part of your persona that when you find a stock to invest in it then stakes it's reputation on the success or failure of that particular company. Much like following or becoming involved in any particular sporting team the emotional attachment leads to a feeling of internal disappointment or joy at the success or failure of your decision making.

Read all that back to yourself a few times and you start to see the futility of the entire exercise, I promise you. Ego is crazy when you think about how it operates.

Fact is you could have done a mountain of research on WELL and never in a million years could you have predicted that they would reset their dividend in order to free up cash to buy back their stock. Push comes to shove that was the first time they even hinted to not being dividend investor friendly.

Same with VTR, Deb Cafaro even went on CNBC and swore categorically that the dividend was safe, (not that we watch the program, just saw a clip.) couple of quarters later and the cut happens.

As for Westrock they make cardboard boxes and packaging for crying out loud, the cornerstone of the Covid mail order stay at home and order online or "get a six pack beer package from the off-licence while the bars are shut" economy and they still cut. Yeesh!

Same story with numerous others. RDS.B and BP to name but a few, most even had reasonable balance sheets so you had a decent idea when carrying out the research that they could weather a recession pretty well.

Yet when it came to it you still found yourself wrong. Then took it personally or tried to rationalize away that it was good for the company longer term, you and a whole host of other burned dividend investors, yours truly included.

Fact is this is the reason we set out to accumulate over 100 stocks, now down to 159 post-Covid. 

It's because within the exact same industry you can't predict how one particular CEO is going to respond to a crisis like Covid versus another, or how their particular part of the same industry reacts totally different to other like-companies. Case in point look at Ivan Kaufman over at Arbor Realty, the company is an mREIT with a high yield but so is NRZ, so is NLY but all these businesses are run differently by different human beings and one size doesn't fit all. When the FED intervened in all their businesses you had no idea how each would be affected, and that it would come down to non-Agency versus Agency debt. Picking the winner was a crap shoot and you just weren't to know back in early 2020.

You do now though, and that's experience. As an investor you will get burned at times, it goes with the territory that you can't expect to be correct 100% of the time. Again this is why you keep a lofty number of stocks in your portfolio with smaller principal invested, in direct contrast to pretty much every piece of advice out there that suggests keeping to 5 diversified companies. Yikes!

So where did this investing ego originate and if it's so detrimental how can we stop it and just roll with the gut punches?

This involves more of a fundamental mindset change, the issue is we have all been instilled from birth by our parents, teachers, fellow humans with an instinctive need to be the best, better than all our peers at whatever we turn our hand to and investing is no different. So when we see our investments take a cut something internally tells us we got it wrong, we're no longer winners and it hurts our pride/ego accordingly.

The solution is to simply accept that you can't be the best and you will make mistakes and learn to be ok with it. Think about Buffett's airlines investments or Icahn's losses with Hertz bankruptcy, these two alone took losses in the millions and they are professional investors with a lifetime of experience each as opposed to yours and my amateur sunday league status. All we can do is work to the balance sheet information staring us in the face, do our own due diligence and make our best gut call. 

Guess what sometimes a Covid will come along and kick us in the pants, thankfully they don't happen often though but when they do we just need to be thankful for the learning experience from mistakes that we will never repeat again. That is all. 

No more guilt trips, enough already.

In conclusion, if you want to beat yourself up that you picked a bunch of dividend stocks that got a reset pounding that you could never in a million years have predicted feel free to beat yourself up, drip hot candle wax on yourself, rock the gimp mask...whatever floats your boat, by all means have at it.

But none of it makes any sense, not a single jot...

Unless of course it was so damn obvious it was ridiculous, like they were running up huge debts to keep paying a dividend they obviously couldn't really afford in which case you're a silly goose or just crazy fast and loose with your money.

Still no need to beat yourself up though just learn from the experience, cut your losses and refocus on quality diversified names, all you can do. Oh and retain your sense of fun and thirst for knowledge and experience as an investor.

Love to all,


Sunday, August 16, 2020

The flight to quality - Northrop Grumman

Well it took us forever, some might say a ridiculous amount of time considering how long it's been since the March lows but we finally made it.

We opened up a sizable position in Northrop Grumman (NOC)

By rights we should have just got on with it back in March and been done with it but it was just a high price to pay, it was too off-putting to pay that much. Or so we thought back then.. So what changed our minds and convinced us to to buy it in the low 300's? Way more than the 280 we should have got it for?

A fresh mindset change has a lot to do with it, a major brain shift away from companies that have just gotten too frustrating. I think we're still just a little fatigued with our investments in companies where the business model has been affected so rapidly by the pandemic and if we're being honest at 170 companies the portfolio was getting a little portly and could easily shed a few pounds.

Something we can also point to is perhaps more of a fundamental investor maturity shift too. I think you can only mutter the line "phew, in-line dividend for another quarter" so many times before you genuinely start to ask yourself aren't we all better than this? Personally it's getting old checking for or trying to predict the next dividend reset.

But the type of high quality stocks we're talking about don't honestly pay a fraction in yield to our outgoing REIT's and big oil. Sorry, it is what it is.

Yes, but that's where they got us anyway. It was pretty much a fools errand to look at that high yield in resetters like WELL, EPR and VTR and believe they were going to weather a condition as extreme as this pandemic. But for each of these you have an OHI, NNN or NHI hanging in there pretty well. So yes, agreed it's a lot harder to pick longer term winners nowadays than it looks, they might look the same but they don't taste the same.

A lot of the trades from back in March have now actually been dropped (in the green thankfully) to continue purchases in what we view as higher quality names. Additional to our Honeywell, Raytheon, L3, Parker-Hannifan, Norfolk Southern, Wisconsin Energy and Home Depot purchases back then we have now added more utilities like PEG, AVA, Hawaiian Electric Preferred's (HAWEL and HAWEM) not to mention more names such as US Bancorp (USB) , Automatic Data Processing (ADP) and the Preferred's of Popular Bank in Puerto Rico (BPOPM and BPOPN) as well as Becton Dickinson (BDXB)

The backbone of the portfolio has to be strong otherwise the entire thing just flops over..

The advantage of BPOPM and BPOPN being that these are monthly payers which means we see a more regular dividend flow like we get from the Gladstone family of Preferred's (GOOD,GAIN and LAND) love those monthly payouts.

The Preferred's in these cases trade extremely thin and can go weeks with 0 volume but it seems like that's life with these, they just aren't your run of the mill regular trades covered by the TV networks and Seeking Alpha pundits and comments section rotten tomato throwers.

But getting back to Northrop Grumman. I realize we're getting emotional about stocks again, but it has to be said, awesome company. Started out as Grumman Aerospace which produced some stellar military aircraft some of which transitioned to become Gulfstream aircraft under General Dynamics. Having spent time on the old G450 production line I can vouch that Grumman produced some outstanding product which GAC then proceeded to build it's name on, over-Engineered if anything. The type of over-Engineered quality we now ourselves figuratively look for in the portfolio.

But like us in many respects Northrop then dropped the volatile, cyclical side of the portfolio to focus on it's core competencies. Pretty much the same thinking that gave Lockheed it's current success, they dropped the civil side and kept the gold mine. This is likely to make GD itself a screaming buy if and when they choose to spin off Gulfstream in our opinion. Same for Boeing Defense and Space, the place is like a flowing money stream getting dammed by the volatile passenger aircraft side. It's hard to summon up the interest in BA until we can get our hands on BDS alone and that X-37 not to mention that AWACS fleet. Now there's a poster child for a quality dividend!! Salivating at the thought...

Post Gulfstream though the company has become a solid and well diversified military player alongside the likes of Lockheed Martin, L3, General Dynamics and Raytheon with stellar cashflow and a conservative dividend to boot.

As with all these diversified military corporations though does the current 1.71% dividend set the world alight? No but that is the key reminder that Covid has re-iterated, diversified cashflow and lots of it with a conservative longer term growing dividend and low debt are the components we need to still see in all our investments moving forward. Fact is they always were but to our discredit the guard dropped in the euphoria of FIRE passive income and a lofty stock market, we can now never let our guard drop through greed from the lure of a tasty yield ever again. Quality quality quality..

The only further question, valuation will only be resolved with a decision on the occupant of the oval office which could initially affect valuation to the positive or negative making NOC a buying opportunity or a long term hold. Without the benefit of a crystal ball we really cannot answer that one right now.


Happy investing!

Love to all,


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Oil's well that ends well?

It's an interesting and dynamic world we live in from an investor perspective, it's like the ground is constantly shifting beneath you. The main challenge seems to be adapting your portfolio to the changing dynamic while trying to not be too fearful and triggering an over-reactive sell or series of sells that you may later regret.

Well, that might just have happened here at DD4L but the following maybe will turn out to be the right decision, only time will tell.

This quarter we sold out of all oil stocks, even the historically strong balance sheet widows and orphans stocks that you would think could stand the test of time. Companies like Chevron, Phillips66, Marathon, heck even BP and Exxon weren't spared the big sell. Not even partial sells, this was the whole lot gone.

With respect to BP though they did follow suit from Royal Dutch Shell and cut the payout in half so that sell was inevitable under our new rules.

But per the title of our last post we can't help feeling this time it's different...so here's the reasoning..

The whole oil landscape has a lot of moving parts going on, the switch away from taking fossil fuels out of the ground is seemingly happening at an accelerated rate under the Covid shakeup which as we know by now has led to wholesale dividend resets.. Think more Biomass, Wind and Solar, sucking carbon dioxide out of the air to make fuel rendering it a carbon neutral process.

Whatever your belief system though all this is happening and all our oil majors are getting on board, the UK and EU companies have just been first in line but we can't help believing in the fullness of time this is the path the US will take under an eventual democratic presidency, be it next term or the term after that. The decision is do you get on board now and take the pain of removing that income stream or wait for it to be forced on you? Looking at Dominion Energy it's already happening in some areas there too regardless of the political landscape.

Covid has also accelerated the slow death by a 1000 cuts of the oil majors' free cashflow by forcing worldwide corporations, who maybe wouldn't have otherwise to realize the economic advantages of having employees work from home. Ok so maybe not everyone will adopt this new way of working longer term, some corporations will always want to micromanage their workers and stand over their shoulders 24/7 to get their money's worth but some percentage will inevitably stick. The cost advantages dictate it has to to some degree.

The issue with staying long the oil majors is this exact point, it only takes a certain percentage take up of the work from home model on a longer term basis to disrupt gasoline and oil revenues on a more permanent basis. We've all heard the return volley that the world will always need plastics and this is true but those are not the key source of revenue for big oil, you driving your car to and from work is.

So the gamble seems to be on the investor to decide the future vision of how many commuters there are going to be on the roads and what percentage of corporations are going to be happy to let employees pay the office rent/electricity/water/bathroom cleaning bills at home rather than have them on the hook for it. It's a question of if the new habit sticks or not.

You can easily see how tricky the whole decision becomes. If a few corporations see a huge benefit then it's likely you'll be working from the spare bedroom for the rest of your career, maybe show up at a much smaller office, even a Starbucks twice a month for face to face meetings?

Add to this trend the transition to renewable energy and a reset with a subsequent new lower cashflow norm and the days of the big dividends are then most likely behind us. We pretty much accelerated the next 20 years of demise into a concentrated couple of months. Wow, that was fast.

So where to go next? What does life look like beyond big oil if you choose to not stay the course as the long term transition occurs?

From our own perspective the transition has been to simply pivot from oil to quality utilities and their Preferreds. This is purely based on the fact that the work from home economy requires more electric and natural heating gas versus gasoline/oil, same goes for the longer term transition over to Electric Vehicles.  It is just our opinion that longer term the regulated utilities will be more critical to the economy moving forward than the oil majors, the way we see it we can either tear off that band-aid now or do it later when the latter has a potentially even lower stock value.

Even with Elon Musk are EV's there right now? Not really but with the lower cost automotive majors committing to zero hydrocarbon vehicles by specific dates then it's just a matter of time before the EV becomes the mainstream. Companies like Honda motor have already made the commitment and you know they will keep to it.

Ironically as far as Royal Dutch Shell goes no sooner had we dropped the name from the portfolio when back it comes into our life...

For our new life here in Isle of Wight UK we are using Shell Energy as our Electric and Gas utility, using 100% renewable energy and they are the cheapest supplier in the country right now. The irony is not lost on us, we lose a dividend and gain a cheap utility supplier..

Along with the oil majors we have also utilized the same thinking to address our investments in Cracker Barrel (CBRL) and Las Vegas Sands (LVS) and the shopping malls of Simon (SPG) and Tanger (SKT). In a similar thought pattern it's worth giving some thought to whether these segments will see the same traffic volumes due to enforced new Covid habits. In lockdown a lot, maybe some who would never have bothered with online shopping before have now been forced down that path such that they now see the convenience more than pre-Covid. Will this new habit stick in the post-Covid world is the question and therefore risk? As an investor the question is whether you are happy to carry that risk from here.

We don't doubt for a second that these businesses will bounce back post-Covid and the revenues will return somewhat, it is just a question of to what degree and if they will ever reach pre-Covid levels again? If the baby boomer generation or anyone deemed unhealthy in some way continues in the new habit form of refusing to take the risk and doesn't return then to what extent will revenues be affected longer term and will the younger generations make up for those numbers? Picking winners that suit the younger, healthier demographic will be critical.

These uncertainties led us to sells in not only the oils but also the malls, gaming and certain non-younger, millennial generation friendly (ie doorstep delivery service) restaurants. Did these moves cost us some level of diversification? A wholehearted yes to be honest and that part is a little concerning since we feel that diversification has really aided us through the Covid crisis.

In conclusion it is understandable that our sells in these areas could be deemed an overreaction which we perhaps could live to regret but in retirement we seem to have become considerably more risk averse when it comes to loss of income streams and the need to sell down the line at a lower price.

If this means that we choose to play it safer with the regulated utilities and Preferred shares from here then so be it. It's a whole new world we are now potentially adapting to, one that we never could have predicted back in the first couple of months of this year and definitely nothing we have been forced to adapt our thinking to in our lifetimes. Sitting tight through it and doing nothing may not be a good enough response anymore like back in the housing crisis of 2008.

Love to all,


Saturday, June 27, 2020

This time it's different

The last time we retired was back at the end of 2017, we spent some time back in the UK seeing our families for Christmas and then proceeded onwards to San Luis de Sabinillas for a month on the south coast of sunny Spain and from there Dividend Nomad was born. I remember it like it was yesterday, heading out on a fine sunny January day to my favorite spot on the veranda where I used to sit there in the sun pondering the stressed out, burned out world of corporate USA we had just left behind. Aaah bliss.

The current freedom and the feeling that you'd aced the game, scaled the mountain etc etc.

You could call it smugness or some other negative perceived emotion but in my defense I did keep it all internal, so maybe it get's a pass as just a form of internal congratulation.

I do remember thinking as time went on though how I'd fallen into the same trap all over again. By nature of my glorifying and patting myself and Mrs DD4L on the back for a job well done how was life any different to the corporate world of pressure and deadlines and the associated success versus failure?

All FIRE had become was yet another, be it longer term this time, deadline. Like most that had gone before it my boss would have been briefly happy with the accomplishment before turning me loose on yet another considerably larger challenge to make my already burned out life miserable again.

Psychologically by becoming FIRE my corporate-ingrained personality type was such that it would be waiting for the next challenge very soon or my reward-dependent ego would create merry hell and make me depressed.

This FIRE was good for a couple of months and riding this high has been great but what next?

But for some of us, beyond corporate life there is no real "what's next?" up that mountain. Been there done that. No need anymore. That's it pretty much unless you count seeing all the countries of the world on your bucket list or creating a new, entirely different pathway but with the same deadline-pressure thought patterns.

So how do you satisfy your mind and ego in that instance? How do you stop the silly Jack Russell terrier yapping away at the backdoor wanting to be unleashed on the next opportunity to again prove it's superiority to the world?

The fact is I had no clue how to stop those thoughts and after a time I began to get restless again, thinking I needed this all to mean something. I had to have retired to something? Right?

Looking back though I now realize the ego was still heavily in control, I was never destined for Slacker FIRE happiness until I could 100% dismiss it and send it on it's way. Dividend Nomad was doing no favors to that effort, with it's self-imposed bi-weekly deadlines to come up with content, writing the book, seeing the world. It was all the same damn thing but without the boss breathing down my neck anymore.

I also had the belief that Dividend Nomad had to be a money making venture so set it up as quickly as possible with google advertising. Again another measurement of success versus failure for my ego to hang it's mood on. Along with all that comes the Social Media presence to boost traffic and likes of the pretty pictures from where we traveled, not to mention the dreaded twitter feed that never felt in any way in tune with my personality.

There was no way my FIRE experience was ever going to be a happy one with all this going on...the mindset was the problem. The whole venture was all based around success versus failure and FIRE is not that, at least not to my mind. I just didn't realize that yet back then.

In fact the only discovery came as we were heading towards the Sahara Desert for the camel ride finale of Dividend Nomad. It all had to stop. The Social Media, the constant pressure to produce original content on a bi-weekly basis, the updates of the portfolio, the judging myself based on the success versus failure (dividend cuts) of the stock picks. It all had to stop. Or at least continue on without my efforts. It was time to get off the roller coaster of emotions and get the ego in check.

So stop it all we did. Dividend Nomad is no more, social media be it Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest..and the dreaded Twitter..all profiles deleted. The book even got pulled from Amazon because even it had become a success versus failure barometer so it too had to go.

Wow what a relief...we finally got off the roller coaster.

Only then by mid 2019 did the relaxation really start. The big switch-off kicked in and life really began to make a lot more sense. The Southport apartment rental was nearing completion and ready to start earning us income too. We then proceeded from October to hang out at the pool of an Airbnb in Davenport, Florida for a month, walking or taking long runs around the subdivision, watching the Cranes and Egrets and enjoying the sun. Walking around Disney Springs while the world was hard at work. Life truly was pretty amazing. This was what FIRE was all about.

But the ego wasn't done yet, not by a long shot. That inner yapping Jack Russell was having none of it. We needed to invent some mystery goal we'd never achieved to prove something that on reflection never even needed achieving.

We'd never worked a US military aircraft contract....and that mattered why? To keep our skills going because fear-driven ego told us we could risk never working again and would run out of money. So off to Oklahoma we jolly well trotted. Set ourselves up in an apartment and proceeded to again satisfy the ego with more deadlines, more pressure, more scope for burnout...would we ever learn?

It was only during that time though that we finally got to understanding the ego acknowledgement process. The basic premise where you simply acknowledge the thoughts that are your ego and let them drift by and don't act on them. Also cut yourself some slack instead of being a bull at a gate all the time constantly trying to prove yourself.

That it? Really? It's that simple? The key to a happy Slacker-FIRE is to simply acknowledge ego-driven thoughts (be they fear, gloating, greed, jealousy, you name it) but not act on them? Then you'll be happy and finally get to enjoy life for real with no nagging doubt?

Well yeah, pretty much. Seems to be the case.

Oh and regular exercise, meditation and yoga still seem to help a great deal, a regimen that got kicked off in Oklahoma and continues today in FIRE....the second coming (let's not need a third please)

This time it's most definitely different. The pressure of blogging success doesn't exist anymore, in fact the pressure to be any form of success or perceived popularity goes the same way. Not necessary. Nothing to prove no matter how persistent the ego becomes, and rest assured it will always be there. Most likely still the reason I'm typing this right now.

One of the best examples to think about ego's silliness is like when people support a sports team and and the ego treats it's championship success or failure like an extension of themselves. A situation the fan has zero control over but still the ego hands down a depressive sadness in the event of failure. We humans sure are strange creatures..I'm neither a quarterback nor a star striker but the ego seems to think I should be in order to affect the outcome of a championship. How very odd.

Part of the human existence seems to be learning that life is a constant voyage of self-discovery and enlightenment. Right now the discovery of ego and the acknowledgement of it's many oddities that affect day to day life and subsequent decision-making is the current chapter we're working through.

Last time FIRE for us was a trial run but this time it's most definitely different.

Love to all,


Friday, June 26, 2020

Why bother blogging?

Going to start this post by pondering the above question. I mean it would be easy right now to continue with blogging retirement (beyond early retirement that is) but to be honest something's been sitting in the back of my mind bugging the crap out of me.

There's this idea now that's settled in that my old boss and his type will be sitting there all self-satisfied with themselves due to the pandemic, resting easy that the idea that FIRE is dead. RIP FIRE with accompanying maniacal laughter (well, I never said the guy was sane) No longer will any of us stooges even dream of early retirement because the next pandemic could be just around the corner, ready to scoop up our hard earned savings and dump us back on the street.

As you can see the world needs FIRE bloggers more than ever, even if it's just to have everyone to quit reading the media fear machine, chill the f out and demonstrate that it's all still possible. It's just that now it's more important than ever because...well, look at the damn unemployment figures for crying out loud. They pretty much binned EVERYONE the moment the economy took a dump. What the actual??? Passive income is critical now more than ever. 2008 be damned, this is the real deal.

So...yes I just quit my well paying secure job in the middle of a pandemic, but I had a lot of faith in the return to FIRE status because we'd already done it before. For the record I've sold some dividend stocks for companies that decided to "reset" which is the new buzzword for dropping you down a paycut. A lot of them pissed me off too because their balance sheets were not even justifiably bad enough to not hang tough through the worst of it. I'm still ok with dividend suspensions as long as we carry on where we were beyond the second wave if that's where we're going.

In better times I was going to keep most of these companies through thick and thin, turns out the downturn makes you think entirely differently. Especially when you notice all the Preferred's continue to pay or suspend cumulatively while the common get's it's a$$ handed to it. So stepping into the DeLorean and reverting the portfolio back to 2012 made a lot of sense, it was my own fault for getting too fast and loose and top heavy with common's. My mistake, lesson learnt moving forward.

As for work I still find myself wholeheartedly disagreeing with Kurgan's theme by Queen from 1986 song Gimme the Prize:-

"I have something to say....it's better to burn out, than to fade away"

Screw that noise. Nope, not buying it Kurg's, fading away suits me just fine...

So if we need to crank the blogging machine back up to remind people there is still hope and your boss is still wrong with the worst fears mind-melt then let's just get back on with it. Also looking to be a bit more ego-conscious as the world has plenty enough of that going on, overdue time to put it in reverse. You still won't find the site on social media desperately seeking likes or little hearts because it still doesn't believe in any of it anymore. Coming up to one year social media free and don't miss a single nano-second of it.

So far so good on ditching bluehost too, had to pay a fee every year to keep Dividend Nomad going so not very FIRE friendly is it...No more!! Blogger is free so if I choose to take a bit of time off and not blog for a while it's fine. Even the DD4L domain name was bargain bucket half price off.

Anyways just thought I'd put something together now that I'm starting to really feel FIRE free again, been out running one day on one day off here on the Isle of Wight since the bike is still at Mom's house up north. No more daily schedule meetings to dread. Looks like we'll be IOW residents for a while now all being well and that suits just fine. Love it here.

On the subject of stocks I just sold out fully from Armanino Foods of Distinction due to their dividend "reset" and pivoted to the still paying cumulative Preferred G of EPR Properties for just over $18 (EPR/PRG). Yes EPR is still a kinda shut shop-ish but I still believe that Top Golf and Cinema's will be back someday. Call it faith in my fellow Americans.

Also in the Roth after the AMNF ditch off I picked up some natural gas utility Spire Preferred Series A (SR/PRA) again going all for the Preferred's in lieu of some of the long held dividend payers that can't survive worst case conditions.

Did consider resumption of publishing the entire portfolio which is now on to about 170 stocks but what is concerning is the idea that anyone will copy an idea while it is in such a state of flux right now. I'm honestly dropping any common dividend resetters like hot sh#t and swapping for Preferred's so would feel hard core guilt if anyone copied and lost out as a result. Maybe scan Quantum online filters to crib similar ideas?

Long EPR/PRG and SR/PRA.

Love to all,


Monday, June 8, 2020

The Deed is done!!! - Savasana part 2.

Well what can I say? Other than that a lot has happened since my last post on DD4L..

I'm back retired again!! Yehaww!! Felt like it was never going to happen.

To be honest I quit writing about the big build-up to re-FIRE because it seemed to be putting way too much pressure on the process and as a result flights didn't seem to be happening. Very frustrating. We were going backwards and at times it felt like I would be stuck working forever.

In the end we wound up re-booking our flights to return from Oklahoma City to the UK, Delta made one final change too many with flights rescheduled last minute via Minneapolis and Detroit that were just too unrealistic. We cancelled and switched to whole new flights on American Airlines via Dallas/Fort Worth to London Heathrow. These flights were way more realistic since they were actually happening regularly.

So the 2 weeks notice went in to the employer, we sold the Toyota Corolla to Carmax for a decent price all things considered and got on with the task of bidding a farewell to OKC.

In the last week or so we did start to have our doubts about whether we were doing the right thing? It is a little against the grain of conventional wisdom really to quit a job during a pandemic to return to passive income in a country still locked down, especially with all the dividend cuts and suspensions that have been hitting lately.

......but whoever said we were conventional? FIRE in itself isn't even conventional. Quitting your job early flies in the face of our social and news-media driven fear-based modern society, that's the main part of it's appeal.

Fact is all we were really doing was quitting to return to our regular FIRE lives that we were taking a brief sabbatical from.

Beyond that though I can admit now that I was actually getting ever concerned about either of us catching Covid in the USA where high deductible-out of network medical bills can pretty much bankrupt the unsuspecting, extinguishing any FIRE aspirations immediately in one foul swoop. Not worth the risk..sorry, we've come to far to have it all snatched away at the last minute. The USA had to get smaller in the rear view...zero choice.

So fly back here we did, landed in Heathrow and grabbed a cab for an hour to Southampton. All of this masked-up and social-distanced to the hilt. Actually was quite a relaxed and common sense process that seemed to go pretty well.

As far as the UK goes our existing Southport apartment that we completed work on last year is now rented out so we had the opportunity to clean slate it this time around. We decided to clean slate in the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England in a town called Cowes, the same sailing town where the yacht racing happens every year (Covid permitting)

Additionally in that process we took away the healthcare issues and returned to the free, more early-retirement friendly National Health Service model. At least if anything does go wrong we now have a chance to be taken care of with less chance of FIRE being financially jeopardized.

We've been in Cowes about 3 days now and initial impressions are, well pretty cool. There are a lot of steep inclines so our fitness levels are definitely increasing rapidly which is a good thing after 3 years spent in the flat, pancake-like lands of OKC and Southport UK. As I type we are sitting in an Airbnb for a month priced at 1100 GBP for the month (usually about 900 GBP per 2 weeks in a non-Covid world) beyond this we are trying to lock in a 6 month rental for about 525 GBP per month which coincidentally is the exact rent figure we receive from the Southport apartment. Perfect swapsie scenario.

If we can lock in for 6 months our thought process is that sees us through the other side of Christmas on this new little island home of ours and get's us back to 6 months UK residence to facilitate cheap travel insurance from here. IOW also feels a lot more of a place we would be ok to be locked down in this time around, the US lockdown like I say was way too insecure. One ICU visit with potentially a month on a ventilator would take quite a chunk of change out of the funds. Every grocery visit was just this huge paranoia-fest that we were going to be heading to the ICU with the Rona.

Those concerns do now seem to have abated a little, such that in the event we need to stick it out here on an island of 120k people longer term than imagined to get us through any potential second wave then so be it. Not ideal, would still prefer to winter in Spain as usual but these are black swan times we're living in and adapting is necessary.


You may recall my previous blogging name was Dividend Nomad? While that chapter is now history and firmly in the past there is still a part of me that feels like the Covid world changed a lot of the dynamic with that lifestyle anyways. I had zero clue how a pandemic could alter that Nomadic lifestyle until now. Seeing a lot of my previous blogging counterparts stuck in parts of the world with questionable China-leaning brush-under-the-carpet responses to the whole pandemic had me really beginning to question the whole Nomadic lifestyle more than ever.

The premise of Nomadism is freedom and pandemic lockdowns struck right at the core of that freedom in a heartbeat. From our own perspective the UK-based travel insurance we were carrying to live in the USA even made us into naughty children that needed to get back to the UK or they would drop coverage immediately. We scrambled for the best US short term medical alternative we could muster, hence the subsequent paranoia generated. In all honesty while being the best we could find for our sub 1 year in the USA the insurance did carry with a lot of horror stories of non-paying in Covid cases. Yikes.

The question really is will any of the travel insurance companies even cover pandemic from here forward? Also in the event a Nomad chooses to "go it alone" how will that play out when you're thousands of miles from home locked down in a lesser developed nation that doesn't want to offend China by acknowledging it's death rate. The reality you now face is being stuck in one of these places having caught Covid and hoping for a sufficient level of care to get you through. My guess is you need to have one eye on a potential exit flight at all times.

I suspect we'd be fine stuck in Italy, Spain, France, even Turkey but I'd be lying if I didn't say a lot of the less, shall we say hygienic places concern us greatly now.

Does this mean we sit on our little island and go nowhere now though? In fear of a 2nd wave? Or  some new bat flu?

No. Life is for living and fear has no place in our lives despite the mainstream media's best efforts to convince us otherwise. From here it simply alters the way we think about travel and the destinations we are heading for, making us just a little more wary perhaps.

We're not saying Nomadism is dead in the water, just that it likely has to be thought through more in a common sense way and that we've added an extra "what if?" to the questions buzzing around our heads. Additional to the riding of scooters, eating that street food and staying cool when the Dubai flight goes over the war-torn middle east airspace etc.

I digress...

Elated and couldn't be more proud to be back once more a FIRE early retiree tip-tapping away on the laptop and yes in this insecure pandemic world. It's still exciting, still love it and still recommend it to anyone!

Love to all,