Redesigning everyday life – One year today

Today it’s been exactly one year since I was released from the hospital. It’s also the day I had my last visit at the revalidation centre.

A few weeks back I had my second Neuro Psychological test which showed little or no improvements in most tested arias. Which means this is it. Medically speaking there is little or no chance it will improve any further. Although this is not unexpected it’s pretty disturbing nonetheless. Somehow I always felt I could beat it. Rationally I already knew it wasn’t in the cards, emotionally it’s very different. The planning and preserving of energy is something I will have to keep doing for the rest of my life. A normal full time job is out of the question.

The main focus and most important one is now accepting my new life, new limitations and find a meaningful path in life within my new limitations. I already took steps in that direction by searching for guidance in figuring out what it is I can still manage work wise. But I would be lying if I said all is well right now. Because this is really the end of the line in the recovery of my brain.
I’m going too need time processing and really accepting it.

January 2017 – Dividend

First month of the brand new year, a rocky start for all I think and it’s going to be hard with all the troubled country’s and politics that look more like screaming contests than anything else.
For the markets all around the world this will mean more uncertainty and instability. On the other hand after much stimulus and external policy the real economy is finally picking up some steam. A big part is due to people spending more , I see a lot more shopping going on around me. In the Netherlands the housing market is booming again which is mostly because of low supply in a lot of popular cities. But also the less popular locations around or near these cities are picking up.

It’s not uncommon houses being sold before the are on the market. All this is fuelled by low interest rates but you can’t borrow like crazy any more like in the good old days. Now it’s 100% of the value + 1% for additional costs. Which is still way too much in my book but it is getting there. Added are the additional demands from banks, which are boiling down to the necessity of brining in a healthy sum of your own money before you can get a mortgage.

With affordable alternatives in social and free market rentals the only way for most people in getting there housing costs at an affordable level is buying. Getting a house and an approved mortgage on the other hand is difficult. So for now the housing market will stay booming even with interest rates rising. Hopefully the market balances out a bit.

And with this other industries will follow. So finally some action in the real economy. Hopefully its sustainable. As for a prediction of the future of the stock market I am not going to give you one. The future is unpredictable. For me anyway. My course stays the same. Buying strong company’s which pay nice dividend and low cost ETF’s. The dividend news , well it’s up from last year when I started logging it. It’s nowhere near enough for my monthly expenses but it’s nice progress. The numbers are :

13-1-2017 W.P. Carey (REIT) EUR 9,28
24-1-2017 Whole Foods Market EUR 1,30
25-1-2017 Cisco Systems EUR 6,79
25-1-2017 General Electric EUR 4,93
30-1-2017 Dow Chemical EUR 4,25

Total EUR 26,55

I am happy about it and hopefully next month will be good as well.

Portfolio news – Januari 2017 changes

December did not have any changes in the portfolio, simply because of a lack of time and energy, So this month I have double the amount to spend on buying stocks.
This month has been all about expanding positions in stocks that are already in my portfolio. Simply because the company’s remain, in my view buying opportunities.

Another change, I now allocate half of my investment amount to ETF’s which gives me low costs and high global diversification. The other half I will keep investing in my value / dividend investing portfolio. It’s an exercise for me , I am trying too find out which gives me a better return , and I also don’t want to quit the hobby just yet. So half is going to the MSCI world index.
Scientific evidence tells me the ETF will outperform me without any doubt. And maybe loosing this hobby is better for me financially.

Anyway, this month I added to my positions in Unilever, Munich Re and Microsoft. Which where under some pressure at some point in last few months, especially Unilever where experts were underwhelmed with their performance. Just none of those reasons where worrying about the future of the company. Microsoft has done a nice job expanding their cloud products and have found a good model to get the products to the market. Still undervalued as well and for me the target at which Microsoft does get a bit expensive is at 85 to 90 dollar per share.

Last but not least is German insurer Munich Re. Still has not been much of a mover but it’s a very solid company and it keeps rising dividends. Nothing much has changed in the calculations , it’s an easy way to add dividend income to the portfolio.

Coming months will be slightly busy as a move is imminent. More nature and less city , which should be good for me in terms of further recovery.

Consumer incentives and the buy buy buy cycles

People spent a lot of money on things, and mostly on things we don’t really need or even want. Commercials, buy cycles, specific targeting and about a million other marketing tricks make you believe that, you’re always out of fashion, if you buy product X your life will be complete. And the best part of it, it works. And it works really, really well. Take fashion as an example, 4 seasons is what we decided on a while ago. The old industry was basically divided into 2 seasons, warm and cold. Because of the production time it took to make all basic materials and time for the tailor to make a suit. Industrial revolution and a few commercial inventions later we now have 8 seasons or cycles. New colours , slightly changed designs and you need to be on top of things. So off to the store.

All new shiny commercials, billboards, banners and mails come along with it. Even the good old pre sale , or post season sale. Now I am a sucker for a nice jacket, which means I have many, and now I am on a self imposed ban , which is good for me. And hard. I really don’t need another jacket , in fact I don’t really need any clothes at the moment.

Most clothes I have are of some quality and last a considerable time. My oldest cardigan is 14 years old and still looks good. For me the fashion part is not an issue. Buying quality means I just replace stuff that’s worn and has wholes in it. Now that the industry has 8 cycles, at least most of the brands do nowadays, what happens to the stuff that isn’t sold ? Which is quite a bit.

Is it going towards homeless people or other less fortunates ? Most does end up with good causes one way or the other and some stuff gets tossed as it’s broken and can’t be fixed. But do we really need 8 cycles and 10 different colours of more or less the same article in our closets ? We don’t , we really don’t. What’s wrong with just 2 ? Or 4 cycles even ? Looks like a waste of raw material and energy.

But let’s not try and be over reaching and solve the global environmental problem just yet. Even on just a pure personal level it’s useless, and a waste of money. First off most people have one or maybe two favourite jeans. the rest gets a turn when the others are out of sight. So having 8 pairs of jeans or whatever isn’t efficient , it’s a destruction of perfectly good cash. Which can be spent on other stuff , like cool experiences. Learning a new sport or taking a short trip or whatever you fancy. Not even mentioning investing here see.

And that’s just fashion, never mind the overpriced items of ‘luxury’ you really need , expensive fashionable watches also matching the season. Fancy dining experiences with lousy food and expensive bubbles. The list goes on. The funny thing is, once you buy any of these items , the next is always there. In the next buy cycle, the next trigger. And after a few years we end up with boxes of stuff we only wanted and never needed.

It’s hard not giving in to al these impulses , but there is a way out, only focus on absolute quality in everything you buy, even if it means overspending in the beginning.

Discipline is everything

It really is, I have quite a bit of self discipline. Reaching goals has always been fun for me. But I somehow lost the fun in setting goals, maybe there was a point I reached and everything just seemed more of the same or I just lost interest in the race, I am not really sure.

Now my recovery is going slowly and steadily upwards I am slightly letting go of rigorous planning the last few weeks. Which has been a mistake. Had a few bad days of all out fatigue and feeling very weak.

The reason is I need too plan everything to keep my energy level up, and letting this go was the root cause of me not feeling well.

It was a slow process over the last few weeks that I started not taking it all so serious. Just planning activities and not really sticking too them and just doing what I wanted for a few days. It starts slowly, one afternoon, one day, two days. And then the lights went out.

Not a very nice experience, so maintaining and keeping with the program is all about discipline. It’s what not to do in order to reach the goals. And being very strict about.
Discipline is everything, and practise makes perfect. Even with discipline.

Bureaucracy part three, final episode ? Climbing towers.

After two weeks of talks with different specialized and not so specialized firms for my road too work the unanimous decision of all the company’s is, bunny and drums……. it’s too risky.
Lot’s of risk of getting a serious relapse without the proper time and guidance towards work. Even the most enthusiastic one got back to me today and told me they also think the risk is more then they are willing to take. Granted they had a lot less experience with people who suffered brain damage and after asking around they got the full scope and decided it wasn’t for them either. Fair play for calling me and owning up to that.

So now finding a way towards getting all the treatment and guidance I need is a new goal. Without any assistance from my caseworker at the government agency, which is fine by me. But I cant’s simply skip them, because they have to approve everything I do towards work , leaving me a bit clueless on what to do next.

Strange thing is, in hindsight , I should have done nothing , absolutely nothing at all. Just wait and see. But that’s not who I am and not how I am wired. I always want to keep moving forward. The new goals are shifting back to recovery and finding a way around all the rules and regulations. Hopefully there are ways around it. So next stop the health insurance and other knowledgeable people.

As always I will keep you guys updated.

Just a few pictures

On most of my walking around town I take my camera. Simply trying to shoot stuff I see. It helps me slow down and I also remember more when I slow down. All in all just a nice way to make a walk more pleasant. Some pictures from the last few months. All made black and white which I really like at the moment. Unfortunately my camera is dying a bit , so I am hoping it survives until I buy a new one.

December 2016 – Dividend

Last month of the year, and final round of dividend. Nothing special, just a nice month overall. So without further delay the numbers.

29-12-2016 Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF EUR 1,39
19-12-2016 Icahn Enterprises LP EUR 1,42
16-12-2016 RDSA dvd reinvestment plan EUR 44,13
15-12-2016 Coca-Cola EUR 5,04
09-12-2016 Emerson Electric EUR 4,54
08-12-2016 Microsoft Corp EUR 7,38
07-12-2016 Unilever Certificate EUR 3,20

Total EUR 67,10

For 2017 the new positions in the portfolio will also generate dividends and I will keep working on a more diversified portfolio.

Happy 2017 !

May all your dreams come true in 2017. Most importantly stay healthy and happy. 2017 will be a year with a lot of changes, all good. That’s the plan anyway.
The new goals for this year are in no particular order, get better at controlling my energy and planning. Finding a new career path in which I can do the things I like.

The first steps towards the proper guidance were rocky , but it’s a new year and I have some new people lined up for interviews and meetings to see if they can help me. Otherwise it will have to ask the revalidation for some more help. It’s been a learning experience so far. One I could do without to be honest, I can’t imagine how hard it is for people who are far worse then me and don’t have friends or family they can ask too help out. Maybe that’s something I would like to do in the future. Help people with brain damage find their way around the numerous rules and regulations.

First things first, if all goes well I will have a few new proposals by next week. I keep you posted.

May the force be with you. Enjoy 2017 people!

Bureaucracy part two, the sequel is always better

Well, some clarity again, turns out the key factors are money and risk. As always, well that’s a bit of a hobby of mine. So I will try and explain it in such a way it’s understandable.

The company recommended by the revalidation team in the hospital thinks it’s too big a risk too just do phase 2 , which is to look for a job straight away. They think the risk of failure is too high , chances are rather large I will end up in a job which in the long run won’t fit.

The case manager doesn’t have enough money and time too spent on both steps. It takes too long , by the time I am done with step one, I will be on to the next desk , which is a medical test too see if I’m eligible for work and how much. Which is exactly what I need to know before that all takes place , based on proof rather then a set of questions by a insurance doctor.

The proposal from the company was to do both within the time frame and doing the best possible, given a set of hours allowed by step 2. But my contract with the company will be split in two. One for step 1 and one for step 2.

Here comes the risk, doing a contract for just step 2 commits the company too getting me a job requiring me working 20 hours a week at a minimum. If not , no money for them. Because they failed.

But as they don’t know if I can work that amount of hours within the given time frame they want to do step 1. It’s about getting you ready to try and find work. Which in my case makes a lot more sense. Finding out what I am capable of and finding a matching job. It’s also a lot less riskier for the people in the company as they will be paid for their work.

Well that’s a risk too big for the government. Why ? Well because they can’t bill in hours, both steps are fixed price, step 1 being the most expensive and time consuming and step 2 the least expensive. And most likely they have to pay.

This means that if I do both steps in half the hours the fixed price will be a nice money maker for the company. Also because they make sure I can actually keep the job they put me in , this entails an extra bonus. Good for me, I need a higher chance of success.

The case worker’s opinion is the company is stretching their budget and by playing it safe they up their margins. while the proposal was too just bill the hours, and make due within the budget of step 2. Also cutting step 2 in an artificial step 1 and step 2 can’t be done, it’s not in the system. Computer says No and all that.

The contracts are stuck to the fixed price apparently, so if I sign a contract for step 1 , the purchasing department can only buy this block. Step 2 the same. Also the success rate can’t be measured with step 1.

And now things get complicated. Because of my health situation I was found unfit for work, which means I can’t earn the majority of 70% my old salary on my own.

It’s likely that in the coming year or two I improve more and more and maybe even can get back fully. But no guarantees. Being in the second year of my sick leave period the medical test is due shortly. So the amount of time for my case worker has buying stuff for me is limited. Once I get retested that’s it. No more steps can be bought at the next desk. Computer says No.

So I can see his point of view given the time frame and his limited options, I can also relate too the company being in this business for over 10 years it’s a big risk if they fail, not just the money also from a health perspective. If I go in the red it can take a lot of time too recover again.

All sorts of interests , none of which match with mine. The revalidation centre warned me about the misunderstood nature of my situation and this is a fine example. Where time , money and risk are stacked against me. So another fine lesson learned, knowing all the rules and regulations beforehand, even the fine print and implications for all parties involved.

Which leaves me wandering what would have happened if I did nothing, no initiative getting this process started from my part. Well as I know now , I would have had a medical evaluation and that would be it. Even being fully approved for work would have been in the cards. And in the meantime it would be at no extra costs for the state.

So now I am looking for another company which can help me with my specific situation. Hopefully this will be successful. And my advise for all of you remains the same, don’t get a brain injury.