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

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Covid trades and emotional attachment

Yes I know, I know the worst thing you can do is get emotionally attached to stocks....I know.

But the thing is when these little champions are paying your FIRE wages it's possible to argue you can't help but get attached, it just goes with the territory. I mean you spent the time researching, hunting down the good deal at the ideal price, following the quarters so you've got some skin in the game. Then you spend each quarter checking out the Charles Schwab history tab and see them paying into your account with a wry smile and happy vibe. You may have gotten a really good deal and watched the stock sit in the green for quite a while, your ego giving itself a well earned pat on the back for being so savvy.

But then along comes Covid-19 or a 2008..

The emotional attachment then has to go out the window, sh*t get's real if you'll pardon the crass expression. Decisions need to be made when the day of reckoning arrives and from then on it's survival of the fittest.

The point of this post is we lost a few good foot soldiers recently in the Covid portfolio battle. It felt like those times working when an old friend got laid off and it was like someone removed a part of your emotional centered stability. Very sad for those of us who unintentionally become emotionally attached to our companies.

First there was the bye bye to Royal Dutch Shell, this was a tough one but it's been time to say goodbye for some time if we're being totally honest. No offence but they've been a bit too fast and loose for us for quite some time, did themselves no favors with the attempt to re-domicile the entity back to native Holland and with it drag us into their tax bracket. Management got overruled back then by the world investor voting community and it's common sense so normal service was resumed, however the dye was cast. RDS.B was on borrowed time. Then Covid and this time it pulls the rug from under our poor UK pensioners who all the oil majors know rely on the dividend for their pensions at their time of most fear and vulnerability. If the earnings call was scary it would be understandable but even then a scrip would have been acceptable, give us a few shares in lieu until you find your feet. Nope hack job on the dividend ensued and some (us) would argue needlessly. Time to say goodbye (waves like Granny at the end of the Beverly Hillbillies credits)

Sticking with the UK it was also time to bid adieu to our long time holding in UK bank HSBC, through no fault of their own too which really sucks. The UK government instructed poor HSBC to drop their dividend for the remainder of the year. This level of meddling is not acceptable and we feel bad for HSBC but it is what it is, they have to go because we can't account for this type of government intervention in our income stream.

Next on the chopping block was Centerpoint Energy. Since they took over high quality name Vectren we've had high hopes, some would say pie in the...sky hopes for them but this has fizzled out to quite the mismanaged letdown. Understanding that oil prices were deep in the toilet at their MLP but even still there was more to this in our minds, an opportunity to hack the dividend to cover up sloppy workmanship internally maybe? The CFO departure bears testament that all is not good over at CNP. We're letting the Preferred run on for now, got a good 18 months left to sell it off before it get's flipped over to the common but most likely that will experience Granny wave too...Uncle Jed would be proud.

Next two (said this was a rough time) were both Westrock (WRK) and Welltower (WELL). The former should be rolling in green right now due to the stay at home demand for their corrugated cardboard but it feels like they took the opportunity to hack their dividend even though their news was not really bad.
As for Welltower it was a good opportunity to set them adrift when they go dividend choppy chop and you've got plenty better like MPW, PEAK and VTR in the space that are performing and for now keeping the ship upright a lot better. (trying not to speak too soon obviously)

One of the largest holdings and bitterest pill was NRZ. We loved ourselves some New Res with Mike Nierenberg at the helm but his masterplan was scuppered by FED heavy-handedness and the calls just mounted up to too many resulting non-agency debt sells. The portfolio is now decimated and with it the business model is now changed for good and doesn't meet up to what we want anymore. Especially when you look at ABR and what Ivan Kaufman's doing over there, even Leon Cooperman is a fan evidently.

That's pretty much all the sells for now, brutal to be honest but necessary. The next quarter should be interesting when a lot of our businesses have been sitting empty for the longer time period but hoping for the best still. The ones with the most common sense have already suspended the dividend which ironically we don't mind, the cuts are what we actually mind because they are more permanent. technically. Resetting dividend growth is a bit of a meaningless exercise, we might as well be buying a Preferred and flattening out the curve with a higher yield in the first place, makes no sense.

On that same subject the Portfolio has effectively stepped in the DeLorean and begun to resemble a little more like our 2015 version. Like a DGI-Preferred hybrid mix. Reason being thus far the Hotel Preferreds have continued to pay or stopped cumulatively while the commons have been suspended indefinitely. Maybe we should have stuck to the 2015 model on reflection but hindsight is awesome.

With the proceeds we've been stocking up again on those long Cumulative Preferred's. Gladstone GOODM, GOODN, RILYP and TWO/PRA. TWO have ditched most of their non-agency MBS so are now a little more investor-friendly. Overall the decision is that we are no longer going to take it personally when call dates happen, just keep flipping Preferred's over and hang on longer term.

This doesn't mean we're now anti-Dividend Growth, quite the contrary we also added to PPL and some VTR and T. We're just being a lot more conscious about where we purchase and if we're taking on too much risk. Boring it may be from here forward so many apologies in advance if the blog now becomes a little more dry when detailing it's purchases. Less juicy dividends more military and utility stalwarts.

Moving forward the hope is the portfolio emerges from the Covid battle more of a lean machine ready to aid us through a long term retirement with less thoughts turning to work. Just can't do it anymore really, this time around really has to be it.

Long GOODM, GOODN, RILYP, TWO/PRA, VTR, T and PPL.

Love to all and stay healthy out there,

DD4L.








Friday, April 24, 2020

Putting the Diversified in DD4L...



(*Post introduction music - I got you babe by Sonny and Cher)

Welcome to Groundhog Day!! Phil...? Phil...Connors?

Since the last post life in the DD4L household is pretty much the same and has been every day and as it turns out that is just fine, it's actually good to be sat here locked down in our apartment with Mrs DD4L. Periodically relaxing on the balcony in the sun listening to the local birds of Oklahoma. Also taking great comfort in the fact that the moment lockdown is done then I'm retired...officially. Out again..done so lots to look forward to, for now just take it easy and let life happen. Surrender is definitely the key here, meditate on the breath and relax.

The flights we had booked back to the UK for the end of April never happened so we rescheduled for
June 5th. Will even those happen? No idea. Not up to us and the realization is now that it never was, we were delusional in thinking we were in control of the situation.

To stay true to the name of the website I'd like to report more trading in the past month, but that would be an untruth. Since all the purchases from mid March the portfolio has pretty much encountered a lockdown all of it's own. I actually think I'm done purchasing for some time now, indeed quite the opposite phenomenon has occurred and a large scale stockpiling of cash has begun, filling the void left from all the purchasing. It's almost like it no longer matters what gyrations the markets are experiencing, we're now fully backed off and what will be will be. Bargain buy and hold has kicked in. Cash is now king for now and the foreseeable longer term future.

There have been plenty of dividend suspensions now with the last one being Las Vegas Sands (LVS) which is quite rightly due to the fact that the casino's, like their hotels are sitting empty. I can't by any means get mad nor frustrated at Sheldon Adelson (Mr Yay Dividends!) for using his god given common sense and preserving the cash pile. Same goes even for Invesco who have reduced their dividend as a result of folks running screaming to the hills and abandoning their portfolios. This is a black swan event and any cash preservation by affected industries is perfectly justified. That said I understand perfectly if my fellow retail investors wish to sell, nobody knows another's circumstances and cash might be tight right now after a furlough or worse a job loss. Survival mode brings out whatever reaction it decides. Best of luck to all. 

So as it stands we're scouting around for some CD's to park any future wages, dividends, interest or rental income that might come our way. Something like a Goldman Sachs or Discover 5 year ladder maybe, have to keep a watchful eye on Bankrate.com and be ready to pounce.

On the positive too the 2nd income property, Southport UK this month starting to produce cashflow via
the new tenants which was nice to see considering the melee and confusion out there. This means when we do return to the UK we need to find a temporary place to rent as we search for property 3 on the south coast of the country. First world problem producing zero complaint.

This example dovetails us nicely into the point of this post. Diversification.

For it is in a black swan event such as Covid that diversification becomes the lynchpin of your entire FIRE income enterprise and keeps the unwanted job at bay (assuming one is available....) 

Sure enough those hotel, restaurant and casino dividend-producing investments were an excellent addition to the portfolio when times were good and money was flowing with high employment but right now the opposite is true. Now is the time you hopefully thank your past self for diversifying out to the Proctor and Gamble's for the Charmin toilet roll, the Unilever's for bleach spray, the Colgate Palmolive's, utilities like Southern Company and American Electric. These are the companies who should now step up to the plate and keep raising the dividends to pick up the slack for the pauses. 

So does this mean we run scared of all tourism, hotels, restaurants and casino's from now on? Once bitten twice shy? Not at all, everything has it's time and place and these industries will come roaring back at some point, just not here and definitely not right now. Maybe not for a while but patience young Daniel-San. Buy low for now and chill ignoring the short term pain if funds allow such extravagance.

Same goes for the rental income, now and moving forward it becomes ever critical to understand the source of all the income we take for granted, run the analysis and take the lessons. In rental income terms it's important to recognize exactly from where the income originates and decide if it is reliable or not during a black swan. If your AirBnb is susceptible to zero income during lockdown then it's important to complement it if possible with other properties containing more diversified and reliable sources of revenue. Does this mean we fear and give AirBnb a wide berth from here? Not at all, again patience Daniel-San, normal service will resume at some point.

For our example the USA rental income comes from a College Tennis Head coach, is this a reliable income source? Hard to say. All college tennis is rightly on lock right now as with most sports and unlikely to return before 2021 so the decision here is entirely with the college to decide if our tenant is employed or furloughed? Our rental income in turn rests on this decision and this is also where paid off property is king. When the taxes and overheads are all paid it's more straightforward to cut the tenant some slack with a rent holiday at a time when they need it most and can focus on putting food in their mouth. 

For the UK property the income originates from a Postman and Sales Manager at a Betting shop. While the former is unaffected at this time the latter is a concern but should be covered by the UK government 80% income replacement bailout for employed people. Quite the godsend really. Even still though nothing is taken for granted. Postmen can go on strike, gambling is susceptible to government legislation so a backup fund is necessary worst case with about 6 months of overheads covered per property. Again paid off mortgage-free property is optimal so that rent holiday's don't produce a painful grimace.

So as you can see from these two examples it's critical in more prosperous, non-recessional times to understand the income sources of your tenants or any other dividend producers for that matter and the subsequent effect of any black swan event. Though for the record it's more likely that 2008 would not have resulted in the same issue so YMMV rule applies as usual.

So in conclusion...

Diversification!! Not just dividends for life but Diversified Dividends for Life. Different industries that react differently, whether positive or negative to different world events. Life happens and it's the only way to give your income a fighting chance to sustain itself until the prosperous times return, which they will. Have faith as hard as that may seem right now.

Easy to say in hindsight but FIRE is not just about quitting the job in the good times, it's about understanding your portfolio inside and out to retain some sanity for the not so good times. Maintaining a frugal, scarcity mindset and holding sufficient cash reserves beyond all this to keep yourself upright for at least 2 years of pain. 

Easier said than done when you're burnt out and the job is unbearable.

Love to all,

DD4L

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Fear, panic, lockdowns, calmness and rationality...


Interesting times in which we live is quite an understatement..

As I write this post both myself and Mrs DD4L are in lockdown in the OKC apartment, well sitting out on the sunny balcony listening to the birds tweeting away. We actually don't have a clue what the future holds and the retirement countdown I lead the blog with has a pin in it for now until we know more.

I could quit right now and go back to being FIRE but to be fair life would be no different since I'm in the exact same place I would be anyways, only difference being I wouldn't be opening the laptop at 5am to work on aircraft designs and would be on the hook for the monthly overheads of the apartment. The alternative would be to catch a flight back to the UK and risk catching Covid-19 at any point between here, ATL, London and wherever we wind up, assuming anywhere is open over there which it currently isn't. So here we stay for now and just keep a watch on the situation taking it day by day. Life could be a lot worse and is for some poor folks so count the blessings..

Not being a medical expert by any way shape or form the way I understand the virus and reasoning for it's subsequent fatality rate seems to be an aggressive lung inflammation when the body over-reacts to the virus and chokes off the oxygen supply requiring the use of a ventilator. The suggested resolution seemingly being malaria medication to reverse this inflammation, seems logical enough. It looks like the fear originates from our lack of ability to predict how our own particular body will react and how much inflammation we're likely to see in our personal case, this roll of the dice being the concern item. I would think that if you already carry pre-existing lung damage or scar tissue and are more prone to inflammation then the malaria medication would be the 100% lifesaver, though nothing is to be assumed here. Praying for everyone to be safe and healthy out there and a rethink on allowing bats and other intermediary carrier animals to be in proximity per SARS (Pangolins) and MERS (Camels)

Anyways back to business...

The other eye opener that became immediately obvious since my last post was the velocity with which my fellow investors sold their stock holdings. The immediate thought was did I miss something? Are we at the end of days? Is Will Smith wandering around like I am Legend? Also if we are in the apocalypse scenario then doesn't money mean nothing anymore anyways so not much point in selling out and hoarding cash.

But the selling...jeez. It was insane and worse than I've ever seen before. What happened to all that advice about hanging in there in the worst case? That all seemed to go out the window.

As far as the DD4L portfolio goes though we did hang tight from a stock perspective and were down about $150k at one point which would only matter if we were planning to ever sell. That said we did sell a lot of CD's, since interest rates took the elevator down to zero there wasn't much point anyways. With the proceeds we went to work continuing to build out the portfolio.

The way I rationalize these purchases from a karma perspective is that I don't view them as taking advantage of the Covid-19 scenario more taking advantage of the ridiculous over-reaction selling that has taken place as a result of it.

I also liken it to my childhood when my Dad used to take me around a car showroom and gaze longingly at the cars with the usual accompanying side hand to forehead look in the drivers side then a cursory glance at the price, a mutter of too expensive and then we move on. A lot of the stock additions to the portfolio have historically been like those expensive cars to me. Highest of quality and waaay out of my usual price range.

So with that said a lot of the following purchases I consider once in a lifetime buys that just don't come along every day, I couldn't believe the universe was giving me these opportunities.

So on Tuesday I dove in with buys in L3Harris (LHX) at $148 a share. That's right L3Harris!! I know right what the heck? Top quality here. On a roll I then added Honeywell (HON) at $112 a share on the Boeing and general airline weakness and overreaction. Raytheon (RTN) also got added at $113 per share, it honestly felt like Christmas.

Also loaded up on Norfolk Southern railroad (NSC) at $117.4 as well as Home Depot (HD) at $156.23 JPMorganChase (JPM) at $85.28 and continued with American Electric (AEP) at $66.18 and Wisconsin Energy (WEC) at $69.41 like I say mega quality on sale for a long term buy and holder..get it while you can.

Further down but still quality I rounded off completing positions in Old Republic (ORI) at $13.50 a share which you simply have to in these situations as well as Genuine Parts Company (GPC) at $50.55, Phillips66 (PSX) at $41.92, Discover Financial (DFS) at $26.57 and slowly wrapped up the Hasbro (HAS) position with a final surge at $43.06 a share.

Beyond all these the only one I missed that I wanted was Northrop Grumman (NOC) which never dropped to my $250 price, it dropped to the $270's which I'm now thinking whether I should be kicking myself for not just going for it. Save it for another time though, it's fine. No reason to be greedy when the portfolio got such an amazing boost.

In the words of BA Baracus I really do pity the fool who sold all these because I never will. Ever. In my lifetime no matter what happens. I want these handed down through the generations so take note DD4L Jr in the event I succumb to Covid or an equivalent myself.

High quality aside I also decided to take on some risk and go toilet fishing for stocks that were just insanely cheap because they had been crucified by the mortgage REIT pain from all the margin calls on non-agency. I think this is another overreaction area where investors aren't taking their time to understand what they own in the agency versus non agency Mortgage Backed Security market so are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In this area I picked up 386 shares of Arbor Realty (ABR) at about $3.86 per share as well as 189 shares of Invesco Mortgage (IVR) at between $2.60 and 4.68 a share. IVR is not for the faint of heart here as they have been hit with a lot of margin calls they can never hope to meet (thanks ever so much RBC for being kind humans in a crisis) so will take time of forbearance to shake out. Like I say that last one is not for the faint of heart and could be flushed through the sewers.

Will be continuing to keep an eye on the bargain bucket in the coming weeks and months, happy shopping to all.

As far as dividends themselves go I've been very impressed by the logic and intelligence I've seen by the likes of Chatham Lodging (CLDT) and Cracker Barrel (CBRL) both these are in the hotel and restaurant businesses which have been hardest hit so yes, take a breather on the dividend and let's see how the land lies when we get back to normal life. I used to judge companies very harshly for suspending the dividend during a crisis until we got into one, now it just seem like common sense to me. Subject to it's resuming on the other side at the same rate I can deal no problem. Kudos to Jeffrey Fisher for using his god given common sense and the board for breathing in accordingly.

Can't blame Arbor Realty either for taking a similar approach and buying back $100M shares in the panic selling, you know if you don't want our shares we'll buy them back thanks.

Who knows how long this will go on for but I do know my opinion of some of the leadership teams of companies in the portfolio has really increased. You can't beat good old fashioned common sense logic,
just makes me want to buy more in support to be honest.

Stay safe and healthy,

Love to all,

DD4L








Saturday, February 29, 2020

It's not the job it's the people...

60 days to go!! But hey who's counting?

I have a question..

When it comes to work life would you rather shovel excrement with some of the easiest going, nicest people in the world or turn up for a seemingly more enjoyable job but with some of the most negative, ego-centric, hardest to get along with people you've ever met in your entire existence? (Think high school but worse)

Reason I ask this question is not only is it very applicable to my situation (and maybe your own motivation for FIRE) but also for a time period was my main source of unhappiness and wishing this OM6 would end already.

That is until I decided to think about the situation and my extremely negative and ultra-hostile counterparts differently. Fact is it isn't necessary to go shovel pig poop (unless you so desire obviously) if you can identify the source of the problem is actually you and not them. (Huh? But aren't they just being bullying d*cks? How is that my problem DD4L? Ok I'm out.)

Hold on a second.

All I'm saying is you control your reactions and responses to these and any other people in this world no matter their background, personality type or in this case, out of control ego.

In the case of my counterparts they seemingly suffer from this basic superiority ego complex that carries with it a high level of insecurity. The need is to always be right, always prove you are better than everyone else as most of the US and UK population has been raised to believe. There is no time for being easy-going in this dog eat dog world with it's consumerist demands.

I can't help that though, those are the facts. All I can do is consider how I live in their world and how I choose to think about my responses.

Doesn't help that this is also a world where people live paycheck to paycheck and thereby in fear of being unemployed so it becomes even more of paramount importance to be better than one's counterparts or risk being first out the door in a RIF (Reduction In Force) situation.

Now obviously RIF's don't bother me or any other FI folks reading, neither does being unemployed since FI took care of all that long ago but I still need to be able to work around folks that aren't in this same advantageous predicament.

For the record my reasons for coming back and doing this job still exist. To be involved in an exciting, meaningful design project is still there alive and kicking. I also work for one of my best friends who so happens to be my boss and a wonderful human being, he comes over a few times a week and we chat about everything since he's also got FIRE aspirations and has a lot of wisdom. The problem is this brought about  a lot of jealous, insecurity issues in my surrounding compatriots.

My initial response to the hostility was to just go into full lock-down mode and keep my mouth closed, listen to Strauss and get on with my job. Good move right? Like Mum used to say, just ignore them and get on with it.

Wrong.

Unfortunately this only antagonized their ego's further because I wasn't feeding the negativity and that is really the biggest problem, when someone is wallowing in their own world of negativity and hostility they still have a need to feed that internal demon. They want to incite a negativity in you and cause an argument to get their fix and allow their negativity to build into a high.

The conversation went along the lines of:-

In a hostile voice "What's your deal? What are you doing here? You just sit there with your earbuds in and ignore us" (I removed the expletives for brevity)

This is one of those strange instances where your brain get's caught off guard and you don't quite believe what you're hearing, where the defensive response is to get pulled into a silly meaningless argument you don't want. You also wonder if people are still allowed to be this hostile in a modern working environment without being fired?

My response? In the most jovial voice I could muster when being cornered:-

"Well I just work here like you do, it's nothing personal. I have no animosity towards any of you I'm just busy"

These words are actually true, I tend to get lost in my work with classical music blaring away in my earlobes and I guess on the surface it does appear a little ignorant.

In that moment though I realized this was not the response he wanted, he wanted me to argue and when I diffused the situation by being non confrontational he had no further response, just stood there for a short time and then had to walk away. This was the first time I realized that killing them with kindness does actually work, I always thought it was psychologist mumbo-jumbo but you live and learn.

So do they still seemingly despise me and act hostile towards me? Yes of course they do because the emotions caused by ego and whatever painful life history is always being triggered and never go away unless you stop it yourself. You have to be willing to seek therapy to address those issues but I know my compatriots never will so it's a fruitless exercise to believe they will someday change.

My only awesome desk neighbor also insists I never leave because he believes that when I do the negativity will then be focused on him instead. Nice. But probably true though, in fact before I arrived he said that was exactly the case.

The point of this post is maybe it will help someone else who's on the FIRE path or dealing with an equally negative family member so is going through something similar, having their daily existence made a misery by hostile people. I still have days where I get depressed about the situation but have to quickly snap myself out of it and live every moment as enjoyably as I can. The trick seems to be to keep their negativity where it belongs, within them and not have it transfer to you. I know, not as easy as it sounds but believe me it does seem to work.

Love to all,

DD4L




Friday, February 7, 2020

This too shall pass...


82 more days to go!!!

While I'd like it to be known I definitely derive zero satisfaction from making financial gain from the current pandemic situation and I'm sure it's very much borderline/not optimal on the karma front, this week I decided to make some new purchases to the diversified dividends for life portfolio while I felt the market was acting irrationally.

This portfolio (when I finally get off my lazy a$$ to publish the thing) does what it says on the tin. Providing yours truly with dividends for the rest of my existence while I'm alive and kicking occupying human form on this planet of ours all the while trying to be as diverse as humanly possible so that any dividend payout anomalies are restricted by sector or global geography.

Having nursed myself back to health after the dreaded 3 week cold that's working it's way around the globe I can't even begin to imagine what coronovirus is like let alone it being the very virus that transports me from my current form over to a spirit. Apologies for the digress but it did also get me started in thinking back to our time in SE Asia as Dividend Nomad.

That part of the world is very much Chinese visitor dominated perhaps more so than anywhere else on this earth. So much so that particularly Thailand and Vietnam have made the decision to alienate from their western resident revenue source via restrictive draconian visa policies to focus purely on China. While I do understand that these countries are picking a side while trying to look after their longer term financial interests with investment money projects like Silk Road, I can't help feeling this reverse income diversification is more than a little short-sighted and needs to reverse before it's too late.

It also begs the question exactly how far beholden to China will the SE Asia countries become longer term?

Will they be pressured by China to continue accepting any and all future virally-infected visitors en-mass putting their own population at risk based on potentially dubious mortality data? Or simply have no choice but to accept since the visitors will become the only source of revenue after all the Brits and Americans have taken the hint and moved to the Philippines?

Anyone choosing to stick it out longer term in SE Asia from here forward has to be aware of the high risk but if like me you work to the rule that life is short and you just want to enjoy the freedom of existence then there really should be no issue. Keep fit with a strong immune system and don't be embarrassed about physically avoiding obviously infected people at the gym or on public transport with an audible tut and an eye roll.

Failing that simply move to Indonesia who seemed to respond rapidly to the threat to it's populous in the same no nonsense way it interacted with a certain troubled US aircraft manufacturer. Respect.

To be clear I don't fear death, as they say I just don't want to be there when it happens and when a country responds favorably to defend it's citizens then to me it goes a long way.

Anyways I digress...back to business.

This week oil giant Chevron (CVX) took a nosedive so I leaped in head first at $106 and continued my build-out of the portfolio position which I kicked off back in 2016. The company took an 11 billion dollar write down coupled with already lower oil prices which presented this opportunity. Still a quality company though with strong cashflow and a 4.7% yield but at the mercy of commodity prices it exists in a cyclical industry, same issue as Exxon (XOM) and all the other oil majors.

As with every cyclical industry though "this too shall pass" is always the DD4L mantra. The price of oil will ebb and flow, this is life as is the growth of the electric car. If you can't handle volatility or don't think we'll be reliant on oil for the foreseeable then obviously steer well clear.

On the same commodity downcycle I also added to my nearly complete position in US and UK-based global chemical giant LyondellBasell (LYB) again cashflow is good and this too shall pass while being paid a 5% yield....keep calm and carry on investing for life.

Finally I made a small addition to the Imperial Brands (IMBBY) position at $24 which is one that I'm building out nice, slow and easy. This is another global player in the cigarette and vape space affected by the vaping clampdown based on misleading data and specific agenda which resulted in cancelling their profit forecast. Yikes! But again this too shall pass....eventually. In the meantime it carries a somewhat lofty 11% yield that is at risk of a cut at some point but I'd still own even if it got halved so I don't mind.

On a separate note New Residential (NRZ) blasted the doors off the quarter and demonstrated it is still an income machine monster with the threat of more positive quarterly's to come.

As is always the case in investing it's all a matter of personal risk appetite, my investments here could plunge dramatically further in valuation which could induce a sweaty top lip or worse rapid expulsion of bodily matter in most people but I just accept and volatility as part and parcel of life.

It's all about personal perspective and length of investing horizon, your risk aversion may not be the same as my risk.

Happy investing and love to all.

DD4L

Friday, January 24, 2020

Diversifieddividends4life - The birth and new beginnings..



Happy 2020 everyone!! Feels good to be back!!

(Even though you might be wondering who the heck I am and so likely had no clue that I went away in the first place....)

My last blogging project was Dividend Nomad for 2 years where I traveled the world demonstrating it was possible to achieve a nomadic lifestyle living purely off passive income of about $1500 per month. I wrapped that project up at what I felt at the time was it's most logical conclusion point, riding a camel over the Sahara Desert thereby achieving one of my main bucket list items. 

From there I hung out in the UK finishing up the remodeling work on a rental property in Southport for a while before heading back to the good ole USA. After spending a month in Florida I'm now settled in for a stint in Oklahoma City. Otherwise known as world tornado central with it's ice storms, baseball size hail, oppressive heat etc. You name it OKC seems to get it weather-wise, it will likely keep the weather channel in business for many years to come. The excitement of witnessing the extremes of all the seasons was just too good for us to to miss obviously (nervous laugh)

For any early retirement (or FIRE) folks reading this is what happens when you retire for 2 years from your burnt out career to uncoil, travel the globe, blog about it and then have that "oh crap" moment that you suspect you might be missing out on something in the world of employment or fear your resume and skills are getting a little stale and are paranoid you'll never work again.....as in ever. It's called insecurity and yes I had it in bucket-loads but in my defense the current "Space race" in the USA to supply the Space station, carry out Moon/Mars missions also played into my curiosity about the engineering career I left behind looking at the work of Blue Origin, SpaceX, Boeing etc.

So as I write this post I currently have 99 days left of my contract back in military aerospace design and am very excited that as of the end of April I can board the flight back to freedom..! (via Hartsfield-Jackson on Richard Branson's finest old school jumbo's)

Am I ever likely to work in the Engineering industry again beyond this? As I sit writing this it doesn't seem like something I'll want to do. I already have the feeling it will be a case of been there done that for the final time. I started back with some very real intentions, the plan was to consider my 2 year early retirement stint a career break but as it turns out returning to work was just an early retirement break in all reality. Kind of bass ackwards to what I thought it would be, morbid curiosity satisfied within a One More 6months (OM6) timeframe.

Do I regret leaving my retired life for a however brief return to the front lines? In all honesty no. I'm perfectly satisfied that I answered all the unanswered "what if?" questions I had once and for all and am now ready to proceed with the rest of my existence.

From here I just want to see out the remainder of my employment and gently ramp back up with blogging about finances, world travel and the longer term pursuit of leading a happy, fulfilling and meaningful life.

Thanks for reading,

DD4L