Friday, December 25, 2020

The Christmas move-in!

Happy Christmas Day everybody!!

Big milestone this week. We moved into the house!!

So from here forward normal FIRE service is resumed, house payment free and hopefully we can now get back to enjoying a more regular cashflow with one set of property tax, one set of utilities, no rent overhead etc.


We had an idea we wanted to be in for Christmas roughly thereabouts and sometime after the flooring went in and pretty much stuck to that plan. Is the place perfect? Not quite, still has some odds and ends to tie up, some minor damp issues to chip away at but for the most part the work can be better done with us in place. The jobs are also now more like retirement "tinkering" than full-on projects.

Like finishing off quarter rounds, adding new door handles, dimmer switches and light fittings etc.

Besides that I was getting a little tired of the whole leaving the place to head back to the East Cowes apartment. So as of earlier this week I went around cleaning the apartment, met the landlord to give back the keys and had our deposit returned. Yay!!

Feels like a huge weight has been lifted, back to sleeping in our own paid off place in our own bed once more. We haven't done that since September 2019 back in Southport before it got rented out. I still hold the mindset that renting is giving away money so it never feels quite right.

Just when I was gearing up to enjoy an easier ride though the Savannah house throws a little hissy fit. A $700 hissy fit in the form of 2 new air conditioning dampers so majorly reduced rental income for a month and then as December rolled around it needed a couple of new toilet seal rings which saw us lightened of another $180. Oh well, that's rentals for you.

So for the last couple of months we've really been 100% surviving on brokerage dividends and rental from the Southport place in UK British Pounds. Things weren't actually that bad at all though, it seemed to work out ok on just those incomes alone and considering it's Christmas with all the added expenditure I thought it was a good test for us. Good to know that in the event the Savannah house ever sat empty it wouldn't be the end of the world income-wise.

Also recently paid off the HOA dues on Savannah for the next 12 months up front from a percentage of rental income accumulated since October. Now we get on saving a percentage towards next year's property taxes, hurricane insurance and city taxes.

What I love about all this is it's like running a little business of your own, managing the income and having a clear handle on where the inflows and outflows are. FIRE is definitely not about sitting around doing nothing that's for sure, never a dull moment.

The Isle of Wight as I write is currently in Tier 1 (ready to go Tier 3 in a couple of days) per the government tier system which is pretty much as normal an existence as you can get in the UK right now. To be fair though the whole lockdown deal here hasn't really felt like it's affected us thus far due to working on the house or taking the allowed unlimited exercise. The only part we're missing is the traveling to Southern Europe but right now that is not the place to be, it just isn't. Much as we'd love to be in our beloved Seville right now eating tapas and drinking red wine in the warm winter evening.

In Spain lockdown means lockdown, no going out at all with police enforcing the process. Yikes! No thanks.

On the daily exercise front we are back to walking twice a day through Cowes to the waterfront and back, with a run or bike thrown in for good measure for me. Got to be honest I love it here and am very happy to call it my home town once more, today we spent the time watching an NCL cruise ship sail by and reminisced about our winter vacations around the Caribbean out of Miami.


Pic: NCL cruise ship on the Solent (at the end of a rainbow...awww)

So from here it's just about moving along with the as-now neglected rear yard to work towards getting it ready for spring. Plan on building a nice patio with fencing updates and stone pathway additions. The outdoor work is the good stuff though and there's no pressure on those jobs.

I'll get around to adding some more completed house pics when it doesn't look quite so upside-down with Christmas debris...

As a side note, purely from a state of mind, psychological perspective I'm really getting a lot more relaxed again daily too, it's been 6 months back retired and I can definitely say the laid-back feeling is returning slowly. I think I was getting there at the end of the last 2 years of retirement and going back to work did set me back stress-wise but getting back to normal has been pretty quick this time around. I think the state of mind will only improve as time goes on and uncoiling continues. 

Hope everyone has a Happy Christmas and wish you all the best for the New Year!

Love to all,

DD4L

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Why Dividend Growth Investing?

I'm happy to say I've been a Dividend Growth Investor for over 7 years now but it's become so much like second nature that to be honest I forget to even talk about it on this blog or even with anyone else I meet. Just because I don't talk about it though doesn't make it any less my favorite way to invest even to this day.

Fact is it isn't DGI's problem, it's a me problem...

Whenever anyone talks about any money topic recently I tend to cringe and not want get drawn in.

The main problem is that in my eyes the world seems to have become so money, power, corruption, greed obsessed that us everyday folks have become more and more insignificant to what seems like an increasingly bought off machine. Call it paranoia, cynicism or both but I just don't like to think about any part of the negative connotations that come with money. It sadly does make the world go round and these days especially it feels like money says jump and everyone asks how high?

Even writing this is quite uncomfortable. Weird huh? It's not even like by talking about it implies I'm automatically gonna run off and buy off a politician or a media company.

Does this mean that I'm meant to give everything away Ram Dass style and just live to serve other humans? After all isn't money simply a man-made social conscript that has seemingly created most of the negatives that ail the modern world, would we all treat each other better and be a lot more mentally healthy without it?

Maybe Ram's decision was a little extreme, I believe a balanced life can be a combination of both, take care of your basic financial needs per Maslow's pyramid and then go help others as and where you can in whatever way shape or form that takes.

But this blog is called Diversifieddividends4life, so technically isn't my job writing here meant to be all about investing? In it's defense I like to believe this blog is helping people stop being modern day slaves since unions are no longer around to protect us.

I just sometimes ponder that we're all on the wrong path with priorities upside-down doing things mother nature never intended. Lawless, godless and wild with money being the perpetrator.

Apologies for the rant, as usual, I digress....

Dividend Growth Investing is simply investing for growing dividends. As in growing dividends for the rest of your time in existence on this earth. 

Other investing strategies just didn't quite make as much sense to me all those years ago, the whole saving up a couple of million, dealing with crap from my boss etc couldn't wait that long. I was already burnt out and growing more and more frustrated and stressed by the day.

Can you imagine it though? My Manager in Big Corporation gives me relentless pressure, put-downs, beat-downs and my only response is "you'll be sooo sorry you said that in...err....6...(counts on fingers)..maybe 7...hmm...hang on 8 years time!!"

"Yeah in 8 years time, if you're still working here...I'll bring you back to this day and hand you my notice...you'll be soooo sorry when I reach a million, maybe 2 million dollars.....stock market permitting obviously"

Conventional investing wisdom was never honestly going to work, I couldn't stay there another decade to make some arbitrary million and then spend it down until an estimated date of demise in retirement based on historic family longevity. 

I mean what if I live to be over 90 and I've spent it all in the old folks home? What the heck do I think I'm going to do then?

"Ok here's your pudding but take your medication first.."

"Nope, gotta head back to work, I'm outta cash"

As I shuffle off the commode and pop the teeth in to go work on my resume...

Harsh example but you see what I mean though? A successful DGI strategy should always see your portfolio worth considerably more than the first day you retired. Throwing off ever-growing dividends along the way over and above inflation. It should be at it's highest value when you are at your most vulnerable, when you are likely to experiencing your most trying medical issues.

The onus should be on trying to live longer and happier, not praying for an early demise because funds are dwindling fast, or begging DD4L Jr for a bailout.

So in my case the portfolio value at age 90 should be considerably more than when I first retired at age 45, long after retiring when a comfortable level of growing income is reached.

That's it. Right there. You get to tell the employer you don't need them anymore when your life is covered financially. I tried to stay longer, honestly but found it impossible/unbearable, even that last OM6months. 

On the way to FIRE the same strategy was followed, growing dividends getting reinvested along with regular contributions, bonuses etc into the portfolio, growth-on-growth like a snowball rolling down a hill getting ever-compacted until it becomes an avalanche (in a positive way)

Keep that snowball rollin'....

As you go along it's pretty cool to actually line up each utility bill, be it electric, gas, water, groceries and allocate a growing dividend to each one.

Have a party pretty much every time a bill is covered, announcing to the world you won't be paying an electricity bill ever again...well, using sweat of the brow money anyways.

When each bill has a dividend allocated which covers the worst case scenario you're good. Test the portfolio while you still work. Ignore your regular wage and live off it's dividends alone for a year. maybe two to test if it works for you. Throw your highest bills at it, the hottest summers your aircon can handle, children that take showers twice a day.

Then when you have enough confidence from all the testing you're Financially Independent. Retired if you want. Done.

A million dollars? Two million? Safe withdrawal rate? Nope, it's just about covering the bills. I always worked to the concept that it's all that's necessary. That and ensuring the dividends continue to grow into perpetuity with a healthy back up fund for emergencies (new roof, deductibles etc) and for any buying opportunities. Withdrawal of principal should never even enter your mind for the decades to come, passing the fully matured portfolio onto your offspring eventually.

High quality companies that have grown dividends for decades through recessions, booms, busts, low dividend payout ratio's, low debt and ideally a sturdy, long term product that everyone can't live without. Like utilities, food, toothpaste, chemicals, home improvement etc

Alongside this though I did work on building home equity by buying properties in need of modernization, working on them and selling them before one final property downsize to become mortgage free. Not needing a dividend to cover a mortgage or rent payment makes life so much simpler.

So in a nutshell this is the premise of the blog, DGI as the strategy to get you over the FIRE finish line the soonest and then growing from there all the way into your senior years.

Obviously there are many other different ways to invest but DGI has always been the strategy that seemed to make the most sense long term, making it possible to quit thinking about money all the time and get on with living as soon in life as possible.

After all there's only so much money one person needs, any more won't make you any happier so why bother pursuing it beyond meeting your basic needs. Isn't it just wasting your life to keep pursuing more money than you can ever spend? Or to just keep going in order to buy more stuff? Society tries to dictate when the average human should do this, buy that, retire, no reason to really listen though since we're not at school anymore.

Here are just some DGI company examples who recently upped their dividends....evidently didn't get the Covid fear email. Not advising anyone to run out and buy them all, just making a point that even through the worst recession dividends can still grow, do your research and build your own confidence levels:-

Agilent Technologies (A), Aarons Holdings Company (AAN), Aflac (AFL) Automatic Data Processing (ADP), Air Lease Corporation (AL) Becton, Dickinson and Company (BDX), Cullen/Frost Bankers (CFR), Emerson Electric (EMR), First American Financial (FAF), McCormick and Company (MKC), Merck & Co, (MRK) Roper (ROP), Southside Bancshares (SBSI), South Jersey Industries (SJI) , Spire (SR) Tyson Foods (TSN), Visa (V) and The York Water Company (YORW) to name but a tiny few...

As is always the case though each investor should research and follow an investing strategy that is right for them and they are comfortable with, performing their own due diligence or employing a financial adviser if in any doubt. 

Long : ADP, AFL, BDX, MKC, MRK and SR,

Love to all,

DD4L

 



Monday, November 30, 2020

Finally getting there...

Happy times!! The flooring is in and others sanded/varnished and we're finally starting to slack off a lot more now, turning up at the house as and when we choose, loping around the place with less of that pressure-pressure-pressure mentality for the move-in date. It's a heck of a relief.

Even found the time on top of the French to take on another two Duolingo languages, Spanish and German. Not jumped back on the Gouache painting yet but it really shouldn't be much longer. 

Anyways back to house. 

This one has definitely been more stressful than all the others so far because of the unknowns, and the fact that we'd never pulled up boards and replaced floor joists before. Those things were just way too rotten after a century of neglect so we managed to replace all the ugliness or sister the semi-ok ones. 

 

Pics: Sistering/replacing of the joists in the front and dining rooms, below is the central heating installation.


In the sanded and varnished state we also love the upstairs floors, that's it shown in the pic at the start of the post. Bear in mind these are 130 year old floors and have seen a lot of history so it's cool they get to see the light of day again.

So now it's just a bunch of putting up chests of drawers and wardrobes for clothing and adding linolieum floors to kitchen and bathroom and we're ready to move in on the 15th of December. We even gave notice on the apartment in East Cowes so we'll be then down to only one set of utilities and taxes!! Yay!! Much more FIRE budget friendly.

While working on the place both of our minds have definitely been wandering back to travel and the hankering therein. It's strange to be FIRE free and yet still be stuck in a cold weather climate, we've usually high-tailed it to a warmer snowbird climate by now to extend summer but due to Covid obviously regular life is on hold. Oh well.

At least the Isle of Wight is currently Tier 1 on the government system so life is as normal as it can be after lockdown finishes on the 2nd of December.

In the spirit of the last few blog posts here is a Dividend Nomad post about Measurement:-

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For as long as we can remember the societies in which we have lived have been run by measurement in some way shape or form. We can never seem to help ourselves, from birth through education and in our chosen workplaces we are constantly reminded that we need to be the best at whatever task, exam, project we undertake, we are even measured in the success of our personal relationships. We are measured against our classmates, peers, siblings and eventually work colleagues and our relative success or failure is judged accordingly.

This measurement process has been the case for generations even though it is universally well known that not all people are born with the same level of intelligence, natural skills, personalities or abilities. But in all fairness who decided all this measurement was necessary? If we know full well that all human beings are not created equally then why is it still necessary to pitch everyone against each other so that society is divided into so-called winners and losers, successes and failures even though the odds are obviously already decided by nature.

Towards the end of my Engineering career I witnessed this measurement taken to it's extreme, I was always led to believe that a little measurement did no harm if it created a little healthy, harmless competition between people but in reality it has now gotten completely out of hand. In fact it has gone to such an extreme that we are now starting to see catastrophic consequences of this lunacy, for that is what it truly is. Needless lunacy.

While busy working 60+ hour weeks in the USA I lost two cousins based on what I see as the needless repercussions of measurement and it's unnecessary pressures that it places on society. The first cousin was unemployed for well over a decade before landing his first job after many years of trying with no qualifications in a high unemployment market, after a time he was unfortunately redeployed in his role to one of the most dangerous locations in the UK and started to receive death threats daily in his public-facing role. As a result he turned to alcoholism and proceeded to lose his job and eventually drank himself to death. I am convinced that the pressure of keeping the job he had struggled so hard to get and living by the success and failure rules imposed by our society led him on this depressed path. 

The second cousin suffered a brain injury at the age of 10 and as a result was never to successfully hold down a sustained career or relationship, he took his life in a local hotel on valentines day in 2017. Again society dictates that everyone should marry, have kids and hold down a career and he acknowledged that he could never achieve any of these so saw no reason to continue.

The needless end to both of these young men's lives highlights very well the point of how the societies of the world have become almost obsessed with applying pressure for people to conform to it's measurement. Our schools, colleges and careers are now more measurement-obsessed than ever and we are rapidly catching up to Japan where the Karoshi culture of burnout and death by overworking has been prevalent and costing lives unnecessarily for many years now. The only positive silver lining of this situation has been the FIRE movement that it has created, placing control firmly back in the hands of the measured. It's easy to see how it's growth is now critical moving forward if society is ever to return to some sort of sanity.

The sad part is that it's only towards the end of my Engineering career in the height of burnout that I began really to take an introspective look at how my own life has been directed by measurement towards one pressurized and unnecessary goal after another. Be it the pursuit of ever-increasing education, wealth, or forging up the career ladder to be judged by my peers and relations as a success and create some subsequent perceived internal happiness. It's only now that I see measurement for the negative force that it truly can become when left unchecked in this society, I have since spent a lot of time uncoiling it's grip on my life and the life of everyone who is willing to listen. Any acceptance of measurement or goals and ambitions in anyone's life should be from within and personal, not because society dictates it so. It's time to break this cycle that we have seemingly freely and willingly trapped ourselves in for centuries and live our own lives on our own terms doing what truly makes us happy, whatever that is. If we choose to do nothing, never get married, never go to college then that is our choice and freewill and no member of society or family has the right to judge us accordingly.

Even though I know that I can't bring back my two cousins, if I can highlight the detrimental results of societies' obsession with measurement and help people to see it for the nonsense that it truly is, then maybe more people can start to also uncoil themselves from it's grip before it has a chance to also damage their lives and mental well being irreparably. 

Thanks for reading,

DN

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As of the time period ending June this year (when I re-FIRE'd) I can honestly say this is all still very much relevant, the employer where I worked for those 8 months had for years been a hold-out for the burnout measurement mentality but even it had transformed too. The pressure was pretty much there immediately, tracking progress twice a day. Almost like my two years of FIRE never happened and I can now say I realized I'd made a mistake by the first week. Now after 6 months back in FIRE it's easy to see this is where I belong, no doubt about it all. My curiosity and burning question whether I retired too soon/should be retired has been categorically answered with no room left for any doubt.

No more measurement, period.

And time to enjoy a paid off house of our own that isn't a rental for someone else's benefit.

Love to all,

DD4L

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Happiness is....eliminating redundant habits

Flooring... this week has been completely dominated by the addition of laminate to Chateau Mildew so apologies again for my lack of dedication to the blogging cause.

But why laminate? 

Well we were proceeding with floor sanding but then had a change of heart. 

Why? 

Well we tested out the varnish and the floor took on a kind of multicolored look about it due to the previous use of different wood types which made it a bit too surreal for our tastes so rather than replace all the planks laminate it was. Much cheaper and not actually bad quality.

Laminate has come on in leaps and bounds since the first IKEA maple glue version:-


So this week was chopping away at the bottom of door casing with the japanese pull saw and fitting the new laminate across the living room to dining room. As I write this the task is nearing completion which is awesome and means I can get on with installing the lino in the bathroom and kitchen (after painting)

In the flow of last weeks lazy journalism though here is a blog post from Dividend Nomad back in August 2018:-

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One of the many changes we've noticed in FIRE is that when you cease to trade your time for money it suddenly hits you how important it is to continue this trend. The path to FIRE after all involves an awakening and realization that our time on this planet is so short and being in control of your own time once more brings to light other areas where it is being wasted.

What this means is at the point where you no longer need to erode your already short time on earth working at a job for 8-12+ hours per day to perpetuate a debt payment cycle, then you can truly begin to focus on what makes you feel happy and positive in life.

Take for example something as simple as sitting down to watch the evening news. From our own experience this used to invariably entail watching some item about an unfortunate local person being shot or involved in some sort of road traffic accident, quite upsetting to be honest. But back then we never seemed to stop and think whether this was information we really needed to know or if it was burning through life hours and making us miserable in the process.

Without sounding too selfish it's hard to understand exactly how our lives actually improved with the knowledge of bad things happening to other people. Maybe the plan of the TV programmers could have been that if we knew the victim personally then we could maybe go visit them to pass on our best wishes, but in all honesty how many times would that likely be the case? On the face of it it actually became difficult to understand why we would habitually use our remaining time on the planet to watch unfortunate events. This was one of the first items we decided was redundant time with zero gain so we stopped it. 

In the UK there is also a habit of watching soap operas from 6pm until 10pm in the evening, in fact we attempted to watch one of these from a hotel we stayed at initially and at some point it just seemed that the storyline erupted into an argument between a few of the main actors, it honestly became unbearable. We could have presented a case for watching was that the acting was of an excellent standard but at some point it ceased to make sense, all it seemed like we would effectively be doing was committing to a time block of watching people lose their temper with each other. Again we decided this was an example of redundant time. 

The same was the case for newspapers, at some point in our existence it was put to us that it's everyone's responsibility to know what is going on in the world so reading newspapers or online news is critical. However there is a counterpoint to this argument that involves the fact that there is very little if anything at all that you can do about most of the worlds problems, a general overview understanding is sufficient. Stressing about these problems on a day to day basis or trying to decipher biased from real reporting seemed like another pointless exercise. We're now able to walk past all those big headlines in the racks at the grocery store without ever feeling the need to know more, reading online news has also been eliminated.

So you see what we were doing here? With no real effort we have analyzed aspects of time usage and decided which were accreditive to happiness and positivity versus ones which we felt were redundant. All the while remembering that our time on earth is finite, anything could happen to us tomorrow so happiness in the present is crucial.

From here all that was necessary was to begin figuring out experiences that we preferred to do instead. Turns out we really enjoy walking near the lake feeding the swans and geese, watching the sunset, heading out for a long run or bike ride, hitting the gym, consuming informative books, blogs and podcasts from some truly intelligent, insightful people that we feel help us become better people. Simply put, these activities that brought joy and happiness to our lives needed to be more prominent.

When we occasionally watch TV now the preference has become towards a Netflix film or situation comedy and if we find nothing suitable then we switch off and figure out an alternative use of life hours. This can mean sitting and talking or researching our next remodeling project or perhaps researching the advantages of any new countries we want to visit or live in.

The sitting and talking has become our best time to be honest, and we definitely get a lot out of it. When friends and relatives come to visit us here or we go visit them there is nothing better than to catch up with people without the nagging thought in your mind that you need to be somewhere else, you can truly devote all your time to listening and enjoying people's company. We've successfully eliminated a lot of redundant time and replaced it with positive, happy, memorable moments. It doesn't take much to optimize your life in this respect, just a recognition of old habits that are counterproductive to your life as a whole.

We've found that one of the best exercises to determine what is accreditive versus redundant is to simply think about reaching the end of our lives and asking ourselves what we think we would wish we'd spent more time doing. This is a good way of thinking from moment to moment about the path your life is taking you on and whether an action is a habit that might need to be broken.

In conclusion, this is definitely a classic 'each to their own' post. If you love nothing more than watching soap opera characters argue or seeing tragic events on TV on a regular basis then that is entirely an individual decision and if it makes you happy we are not here to tell you otherwise. However if there are aspects to your life that you aren't happy with then it might be a good idea to identify and strip away redundant time and re-allocate that time to researching a go-forward plan that is more amenable to future, longer term enjoyment. 

Thanks for reading,

DN

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This post is still very much applicable to our lives in FIRE, though I can admit I did cheat a little and follow some of the election coverage and have been keeping a close eye on the ACA supreme court outcome. It's easy to see the negativity creeping back in though so it becomes necessary to shut it back down.

Before working on Chateau Mildew I actually took up Gouache painting after not lifting a paintbrush since mid high school, not to mention learning piano and the French lessons on duolingo. These activities wouldn't be possible if too much time was spent watching TV or on the internet as mentioned in the above post.

Once the Chateau work tails off I'll be back to painting, reading and music, maybe a bit of mountainbike. I'll detail all that in a later post though.

Love to all,

DD4L.




Friday, November 13, 2020

Why everyone will need Financial Independence...eventually (A lazy revisit)

So since I'm waaaaayyy tooooo daaaammn fricking exhausted because this house renovation is kicking my sorry old ass I thought I'd approach the next few blog posts a different (erm, lazy) way. 

I recently trawled my gmail reading some of the old Dividend Nomad posts I wrote over the past couple of years which are now deleted on the world wide web, with the idea of trying to figure out either exactly what type of black tar heroin I was on or if after the passage of time do I still agree with what I was originally spouting at this now later, more experienced juncture? 

I know, lazy bone idle, poor excuse for journalism. I just don't have the energy right now to produce. It's replacing rotten joists here, filling in walls there, bit of brick re-pointing. I'll get into that more at a later date.

Since these posts no longer exist technically I thought it also nice to reintroduce them under the new Google Blogger format since it no longer costs me a dime to host...(aaahh the sweet life post-Bluehost)

Yep, still a cheapo..

So here is one from back in September 2018. 2018, what an awesome year! We never had it so damn good. No Covid, no masks (unless you were in Chiang Mai and it was burning season)

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Since I don't read online news anymore my better half Mrs DN pointed me to an article in the Daily Mail about Financial Independence, hinting that I may not like what I read in the comments section and how the responses were very negative with about 95% highlighting that this is not the lifestyle for them.

The only response I can really give to anyone who sincerely doesn't believe they ever see themselves needing to sock away money to secure the future for themselves and that of their family is, well one of extreme happiness. Happiness tinged with maybe a little skepticism, but happiness nonetheless. The reason for my happiness is obvious, to spend your days at a job you love isn't working. It's just like having a hobby someone pays you for, it's a wonderful existence experienced very rarely.

The reason for my hint of skepticism though, without the slightest hint of condescension is that of the past 24 years of my working life I have spent 13 of them cycling in and out of what was a heavily burnt-out state. This burnt-out state was as a direct result of continuous 60-70 hour weeks that were seemingly never going to end anytime soon, at least until I was the person to make the choice to end the madness.

My background growing up, as well as that of most of my old friends and colleagues had always been that when there's money on the table then you grab it with both hands, the same if someone offers you a job, you take it because you don't know what tomorrow will bring. Indeed grab I did for those decades and for some parts of that time period I did actually enjoy designing aircraft and motor vehicles for a living. In some of those time periods my viewpoint might have even echoed the exact same mantra as those responding in the comments field of the aforementioned article. I'm designing aircraft, having the time of my life, why on earth would I dream of wanting to stop and retire when I'm doing such important work that means so much to me and my employer? It makes zero sense. 

This is where I was actually partly correct, I was enjoying the work and it did mean a lot to me. My error was assuming that the work I was doing meant anything to my employer. This is not a victim mentality statement just a fact, in the eyes of the vast majority of corporations you don't actually exist in the human sense of the word, you are a commodity. I actually have no problem with this understanding, I can't say I felt the same the day decades ago when it actually started to hit home but over the years I came to terms extremely well with it I think.

The point is, Financial Independence is not for everyone at a certain given time of their lives. It needs to be arrived at by a series of obvious events and if those events never materialize then there might be a good chance you will never even give it a second thought. Like I say if this is you then I'm very happy for you, long may your joy continue.

All I can say though is rest assured the corporate burnout culture is alive and well and is going nowhere anytime soon. The reason? Well from a corporate perspective it makes the uttermost sense to get as much performance from your employees as is humanly possible in order to assure yourself maximum profits when it comes to quarterly reporting. The best way it has been found to achieve this is through introducing a competitive, fear-based culture. Fear of losing your job and subsequently all your material possessions creates competition between yourself and your peers who also live in fear of losing their job too. 

Therefore when it comes to deciding who stays and who goes then it is on you to show your company loyalty and that is done by working longer and harder than your peers. This means working weekends, holidays, whatever it takes to hit the deadlines that the corporation decides are their critical milestones that pay bonuses at Director up to Vice-President level, usually coinciding with quarterly earnings reporting and subsequent share price. Your Directors and VP's have a financial dog in the hunt when it comes to your performance, your success is their success and if your immediate Manager is failing achieve the results expected by their superiors then they need to explain your performance. Did you work the overtime that was expected of you? Did you turn up over thanksgiving? Christmas? The stress of knowing this is the expectation is what leads to the overwork and subsequent burnout. 

Burnout comes and goes quite a few cycles in your working career before it begins to truly stick with you on a longer term basis. You can feel stressed at peak times and then it subsides for a while and you can go back to enjoying your job and life again but it inevitably returns because corporate culture dictates it so. It is when it returns as a more longer, sustained version with no letup that you begin to truly begin to see the real problem. This longer, sustained version does take a while to materialize though which gives you some grace period before you feel it's worst effects.

So in conclusion, I agree that at any given time you can find a large percentage of the population disagreeing, even quite aggressively in some cases with the notion of Financial Independence or FIRE. But rest assured that at some point the mood wherever they are will change, it may not be tomorrow, maybe not next month nor year but at some point corporate culture wherever you are will shift. You can probably predict it the moment your more higher level employees switch to the aforementioned milestone performance-pay related business model. This process usually occurs when the small, happy successful organization that you love to work for get's swallowed up by a corporate giant.

Once this occurs the need to constantly innovate, to increase revenue, to increase earnings by reducing overheads will never go away now, especially when you've gone too far and proved you can do more with less headcount. Going back to any lesser performance will never be a U-turn that any corporation can sell to Wall Street investors.

Here's to hoping the naysayers receive enough wake up calls to figure all this out before it's too late for them. The only remedy to modern corporate culture is Financial Independence, or FU money.

Thanks for reading,

DN

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Holy moly! That's not stale. Still agree with every word.

Even more so in the Covid world but never to get complacent again post-Covid vaccine. Even though the FIRE community to me seems to have run out of steam/ideas nowadays, I still am a big believer in the underlying premise. 

To anyone listening (or even not listening) I'd still spout the same. i.e. don't get slapped down/burnt out long term by the corporate world even if you do now appreciate simply being employed in a pandemic world, the gratitude will most likely fade post-vaccine and it's likely you'll ultimately gravitate back to not being too plussed with overworked, slave labor which is sadly ingrained in corporate culture longer term. 

Trust....and save the pennies to get back on track to the longer term FIRE goal. If I was still on the hamster wheel that is exactly where my thoughts would still be..

Love to all,

DD4L

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,

DD4L

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,

DD4L


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.

Long NOC, LHX, GD, RTX, PH, HON, NSC, WEC, HD, BDXB, ADP, PEG, AVA, OHI, NNN, NHI, HAWEM, HAWEN, BPOPM, BPOPN, GOODN, LANDP.

Happy investing!

Love to all,

DD4L










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,

DD4L

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,

DD4L.


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,

DD4L.


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.

Nomadism.

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,

DD4L