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