Mortgage free ?

Mortgage free , a goal a lot of people aspire nowadays. It’s how I got started viewing my finances differently and more specifically my take on risk. I went on paying off as much as I could as fast as I could. The math was extremely simple, I had an interest rate on my mortgage of 5,35 % and was getting 0,25% or thereabouts on my savings acount.

This turned out to be a smart move , especially when bying a new house, there was some money left after selling the old house and clearing the old mortgage. This made the proces easier , there was no need for stretching towards the maximum lending capacity. We carried on paying off the mortgage at the same pace. The math was still in out favor, despite getting a significant lower interest rate of 2,7%. In the mean time the savings account produced only 0,05%. Full disclosure , I do not take into account any tax reductions or other tax advantages because they differ for everyone.

At some point I became aware of the fact that nothing in terms of housing was cheaper than any of the alternatives. Including a maintenance provision. All other alternatives like renting or buying a smaller house are more expensive. Even social housing is costs more , which I do not qualify for.

So all other alternatives are pricier. I started wondering if my extra mortgage payments still made sense. Isn’t it better investing these sums in other more liquid investments ? The mortgage will take care of itself in the remaining time the mortgage still has too run.

For me the answer was yes, simple math with a return of 5% gets me more money at the end of the line and the money is available, it’s more liquid.

Isn’t this simply hedging the mortgage against more riskier investments ? Yes it is , I am using the time and the debt in the house too take on more riskier investments. Brings us back too risk, what is the risk ? I live in the house and in the current market there are no opportunities in finding something cheaper. The biggest risk is I can’t afford the mortgage payments anymore. And this would mean finding cheaper housing when that happens, which isn’t available.

It’s now time for kicking my habit of extra monthly payments and the little voice in my head saying , just get rid of the mortgage ! So I am taking these monthly extra payments and putting them in my ETF portfolio. Then at some point , likely faster I will simply have the remaining mortgage sum in liquid investments , which means I could at that point pay it off in full.

A very reasonable risk if you ask me.

Under 3 – Fourth week of training

This week has been a successful one, full training schedule done ! It went very well and although I can’t yet get enough speed this is something that I am working on with extra speed training and short speedy parts during the long runs. But that did not take away the fun , I am very happy I could cope with the Km’s smoothly. No weird pains or sore muscles in between the sessions. Which makes me a very happy person.

Strength training I am still doing via yoga sessions which I like a lot, it’s more tranquil and the continuous movement makes for a more flexible me. Which is an added bonus. Also it is supposed to make you more resilient and thus less prone to injuries. And it makes me more relaxes mentally , which is kind of ideal being me. 4 sessions this week and I am planning to keep this up.

All in all an excellent week. On to the next !

January 2019 – Dividend

Another month has passed, first in 2019, time for another dividend update. Comparing 2019 with 2018 , the January dividend has gone up 50% , mainly because of growth in the portfolio. I don’t know if it’s also down to individual company’s raising there dividends. To be honest I wasn’t too bothered looking it up. Maybe I can muster up some will power the next time round.

It’s still fun watching dividends come in, although I follow the discussion around whether dividend investing is still as viable today as it was in the past with great interest. I think it a bit of a save guard for management not too take too short term decisions , and look more towards stability in growth as opposed too fast growth. Well for me it still works well, and for now I will keep it as part of my investment strategy alongside the ETF part of the portfolio.

Now the numbers :

DateStockCurrencyAmount
23-01-2018
Cisco SystemsEUR8,10
15-01-2018
W.P. Carey IncEUR9,03
10-01-2018
Walt Disney CompanyEUR0,77
09-01-2018
Vanguard FTSE All-World UCITS ETFEUR37,11
02-01-2019NikeEUR1,92
TotalEUR56,93

Under 3 – Second and third week of training

Another overview of my training activities, or lack thereof. Week 2 was mostly wasted on a food poisoning , which left just two runs in week 2. Week 3 also started in recovery mode which was rather annoying. At the end of the week I managed a few runs , a bit unfortunate but luckily at the beginning of my training plan and not at the end just before a marathon.

Training itself went well, just slightly slower due too overall weakness from the stint of food poisoning. All in all it held me back for a good 8 days.

Happy to be back and looking forward to week 4 !

Debt reduction, it’s not easy.

A lot of people are writing about debt reduction as an easy way of getting the monthly costs down. Which in theory it is.The math is pretty straightforward and if you make a simple spreadsheet the reduction of debt and all it’s benefits become pretty clear. It’s a no brainer really. So you start with a lot of renewed optimism and energy and the first few months fly by. But them the promised big dent in the costs doesn’t happen as fast as you would like , you hang in there but the lure of your wish list , bucket list or some other short term gratification is looming. You start questioning if it’s worth it.

Congrats ! You just arrived at the hard part, sticking with it regardless. This is hard, and it’s not happening at the end it’s when you just got started , and it’s going too happen again. Psychologically all these small steps and keeping the enthusiasm alive is the most difficult part. Because it’s becoming boring. The numbers don’t change magically , the time and effort stay the same no matter how hard you look and your spreadsheet.

But sticking with it really pays off, make a game out of it. Every time you want too spend money on something you don’t really need , step back think again and….

take that amount and pay off some more debt. You get too adjust your spreadsheet and the numbers change. Excitement has returned ! All kidding aside, debt reduction is more of a mind game than a numbers game. Most hard things take a long time , remember your original goal and reason for doing it!

By all means paying off large sums of money is never easy, it is however one of the best decisions you can make in your life. It reduces your financial vulnerability , reduces your monthly cash flow needs, and reduces stress. All very cool benefits. Just hang in there !

January 2019 – Option positions

This year I am planning on learning more about options. In another series on this blog I keep track of my knowledge and in this series I will share my option positions. Mainly because a lot of information is about the theory behind options and calculation examples. Apparently not many actually share the practical side of things, the doing part.

And although theory and calculations are the basis behind it all, it all tends too favor the profit side of things. A lot of examples explain in detail where the profit in the position comes from. The part about the losses and risks is generally just a sentence long. Also the supposed profit margins are always pretty fat. While I enjoy reading about theory and supposed succes. I feel like I am learning a lot more when I am reading about mistakes. And how people adjust and learn from them.

With that in mind I am logging all my option positions each month and what happend with them. The strategy is basic , I am only writing covered calls and puts. I am writing puts on stocks I am planning on buying anyway and write calls on stocks I have in my portfolio. No complicated scenarios as of yet.

It’s a bit of an experiment and I will probably adjust the format of this article series in the future but for now I will make due with this table.

Date position openOption QuantityPriceTotal amountBuy / Sell End dateTransaction costs
Open/ClosedResult
03-01-2019Ahold Delhaize Put 19.00 18 January 201914,004,00Sell18-01-20190,85Closed3,15
18-12-2108Bam Put 2.20 18 January 201915,005,00Sell18-01-20190,85Closed4,15
5-12-2018Philips Put 29.00 18 January 2019 113,0013,00Sell18-01-20190,85Closed12,15
04-01-2019Aegon Call 4,50 15 March 2019210,0020,00Sell15-03-20191,7Open
07-01-2019BAM Call 3,00 15 March 2019210,0020,00Sell15-03-20191,7Open
22-01-2019Philips Put 24,00 15 March 201917,007,00Sell15-03-20190,85Open
30-01-2019Philips Put 30,00 15 March 2019120,0020,00Sell15-03-20190,85Open

2019 goals

A new year and new goals, this will be my first time setting goals , up until now I mostly used to do lists and loosely set goals. Resulting in missing real focus. In turn running up the to do’s on the good old to do list.

First up the finance side of tings. Which can be roughly divided into 2 parts, mostly cost reduction and building wealth. The easiest way for reducing costs is paying off the mortgage which is the only and biggest debt. Last year saw the biggest reduction so far. It’s so easy it’s hard not simply keep on doing it. However I am now at a point which all the alternatives in the market, renting or buying another house will be more expensive. I have no way of living any cheaper. The mortgage needs paying off so I will continue doing the extra payments but the focus needs too be on other more lucrative investments. So the goal for 2019 is paying off an extra 1200 euro’s. That’s it.

Which leaves the other part , my stock and ETF portfolio. A fixed amount will be added each month, divided over ETF’s and handpicked company’s. In which dividend payments will be one of the main factors, as part of my passive income strategy. My goal is getting my dividend payments up too 1500 euro’s per year. In 2018 the total got over a 1000 for the first time, 1021,80. A small milestone. Let’s see if my new goal is achievable.

Something new I got into in 2018 and developed more during the year is options trading. Which turned out too be the suprise of 2018. I used too write options every now and then on stocks I wanted too buy, not really consistent and just for fun. Mostly I didn’t get the stocks and I tried again. After some time I started making this a more systematic approach and I also started writing options on stocks I had in my portfolio.

At the end of 2018 I also started using part of my cash buffers as collateral for writing options. Usually you will have a good idea which part of the buffers you don’t need in the coming month, so it’s pretty safe using a part of this as a way for generating extra returns.

All in all this approach yielded a nice 10,21% return on risked capital. Not shocking in the option trading world but for me an encourachement for learning more about it and applying this in 2019. I will write about my learning process in the option series on this blog.

So 3 finance goals, keep downsizing the mortgage , generate more passive income and enhance the result with option trading.

But without my health all the money is worthless. 2018 has been a year with a few stark reminders of my permanent brain damage. I took on too much in some instances and got into a few nasty periods afterwards. 2019 is all about finding and keeping the balance again and really accept my new me. I can’t keep going on adding more work each time until I crash. The focus will be on being stronger, training the left side of my body and going back too the start of my revalidation process and taking and celebrating small steps forward. I will elaborate more on this in coming blog posts. For now have a very good 2019 !

December 2018 – Dividend

Final month of 2018. And the final monthly dividend report for this year. The Stockmarket has tanked last few months which leads too all sorts of speculation and doubt, for my strategy it’s not important. For I am still in the building up part of the process. Time in the market is far more important than timing the market.

The dividend this month is less then December 2017, because I sold Shell in the summer. So we are down 67%. Green costs money ;). This will be corrected next year because the money went into other dividend paying company’s. Overall the dividend in 2018 is up 27% compared with 2017. Which is pretty good. It’s motivating.

We will see what 2019 will bring.

The numbers:

DateStockCurrencyAmount
20-12-2018Vanguard dividend appreciation ETFEUR1,51
18-12-2018Icahn Enterprises LPEUR1,53
14-12-2018DowDupont EUR3,33
14-12-2018Coca-ColaEUR5,13
13-12-2018Microsoft EUR8,07
05-12-2018UnileverEUR3,87
TotalEUR23,44

Portfolio news – Winter 2018

Time for another portfolio news. Since the last additions I have been going out of the fossil energy industry and reinvested the funds into technology and the ETF’s. I had still had Shell, sold ONEOK before that and now it was time to remove Shell from the portfolio. It’s a nice dividend income and for all their commercials and PR towards clean energy I haven’t really seen anything apart from sponsorships. No real moves as of yet. In name an Energy company, in practice still a old style oil giant. I realize I am still an investor by the way of the ETF, so I am not completely clean at the moment. But this is the first step.

Also out is General Electric, one of my longest holdings in the portfolio, and one I neglected acting on earlier which resulted in a loss, another testament towards simply buying an ETF and holding that instead of following separate companies. But I am still having fun doing the research, so for now I will keep adding some handpicked stocks to my portfolio.

As for technology , more ASML, Apple and Microsoft have been bought. Next on the list is Philips. Getting larger in healthcare which will remain a growing market, it’s been lagging a bit lately and now starts making up a bit. So I will start out with writing put options and seeing how things develop.

The ETF’s have seen the biggest growth in my portfolio, simply because it’s easy and cheap. Which comes a long way in having a nice return in the future. Low costs and simplicity is key. Its also remarkably stable. My handpicked portfolio goes up and down a lot more, which makes sense because it only contains a few positions versus hundreds combined in an ETF.

So my testcase is more and more in favor of the ETF’s , which I will be allocating more money towards in 2019.

Control your finances, but why?

Nice oneliner, isn’t it? But having control over your finances, what’s that exactly ? It’s knowing exactly whats coming in and going out each month, for starters. It leaves you with an exact number you have left each month. And you can go figure out what you can or must do with it.

In the Netherlands, where I live the national budget institute, which advises people on responsible finances has a lot of different data on budgets, savings etc. It says only 27% of all Dutch people keep a monthly cash flow report. And 25% has savings less then 2200 euros. Which is roughly 1,5 months of expenses if you don’t a lot of those. A lot more numbers are available but you get the idea.

It’s simply a fact most people don’t know their financial status from one month to the next. Which doesn’t have to be a problem if you simply spent less than you make. Which leaves a buffer automatically. Which in most cases end up in savings accounts.

But it pays dividends knowing how the numbers look and taking it as a starting point in thinking about your financial future. Best case scenario is thinking about how your surplus can make you money, worst case if you come up short each month how too fix that issue.

Let’s start easy, by making a simple monthly balance in a spreadsheet or on a piece of paper, doesn’t matter. You first write down your income, for most your salary. Then deduct your mortgage or rent, your utilities bill, all your taxes etc. Then if applicable monthly tax breaks and or subsidies. (which vary per country.)

Which leaves an amount of money which you can spend, but we’re not there yet. You need too eat. If you haven’t got an exact number on your groceries make an estimate. Deduct that and you have your free spending money for that month. Well most sensible thing you can do is make a fixed reserve and deposit in a savings account. Anyway now you know more or less what comes in and goes out each month. Easy enough right ? Your monthly budget is alive !

With what you have left , you can start doing stuff, spending it , or saving it, or reducing debt. It doesn’t matter really. You now now a figure which you can safely allocate or spend for this month. Start saving for future calamity’s is smart, replacing broken washing machines, unexpected car repairs and so on. You name it, it will happen and an nest egg will help you overcome such things.

Looking up all your monthly costs will take some time when doing it for the first time. Most don’t really changes a lot during the year and once you have 1 month mapped out, the rest will be less work. For inspirational purposes I added an example, a very basic spreadsheet as a start, click here Monthly budget . Most months after the first initial set up it will take about 5 minutes making a new one for the coming month. Maybe 10, but 5 is an amount people tend to want too spend on not so fun stuff, so just stick with 5.

But why ? Well stress which comes directly from financial issues is one of the most recurring causes of stress. A nagging feeling not knowing if you come up short or have enough money in reserve or when having have debt is a large amount of stress people experience on a daily basis. Im my experience starting out with a budget will make things a lot clearer and is a good starting point in solving financial problems one might have. Your feelings get to be facts and facts make solutions possible. You can now start improving your financial situation.