Bloggers on FIRE – Eyes on the Goal
In our Bloggers on FIRE series, we interview European FI bloggers to find out what makes them tick. Our aim is to build up a “who’s who” directory for the European FI blogging world. We hope you enjoy the series and discover some new blogs to follow. You can find a full list of our Bloggers on FIRE interviews here.
Please briefly introduce yourself to FIREhub.eu readers
I am a Bulgarian woman in my mid-30s. After living in Berlin for almost 8 years now I can proudly say Ich bin ein(e) Berliner(in). My job in IT brought me to the German capital in 2011. The place felt like home from the very first day. A year after I arrived, I met my gorgeous boyfriend, and I had one more solid reason to stay.
What’s your backstory?
I’ve been on the FIRE journey for all my life without even realizing it. There are 3 factors that positioned me firmly on the path:
First of all, my family has always been very frugal. My parents are savers and builders. Their raised me and my sister in the 90s – years of political and economic instability in Bulgaria. I didn’t enjoy wearing 2nd hand clothes, and not having pocket money but the scarcity motivated me to work towards my own financial empowerment. I chose Informatics for my studies. I continued with internships and finally well-paying jobs. It felt good to be the master of my own money and to finally afford everything my parents didn’t want to pay for.
Secondly, at 26 I met someone who was financially independent. In her 40s! Wow! Her lifestyle was in such a stark contrast to the picture I’d been seeing around. A woman in her best, mature years, living in a beautiful, centrally located apartment, travelling around the world and savouring life. She had made it all by herself, building a company, selling it and investing in real estate. This relatively passive income allowed her to enjoy indulgent mornings of swimming and walks in the nature and afternoons of leisure reading and cocktails while 99% of her peers were slaving at work. Best of all, she shared with me how she did it, and she encouraged me to go for it.
Around this time, I was living abundantly in a similar, 100m² central apartment all by myself. I had a lot of fancy clothes and shoes. I was travelling abroad almost every month and I was having the time of my life. I was not financially independent though, and I was not building my wealth. Meeting this woman, and later on, becoming good friends with her was a wake-up call for me. When I saw clearly that FI was possible, I became more intentional about it.
Last but not least, at the end of 2016, I publicly committed to reaching FI within 5 years, at the beginning of 2022. That’s when I started writing my Eyes on the Goal blog – to document the journey and keep me focused on the goal.
Why do you want to reach Financial Independence?
Initially, I wanted to escape the limitations imposed by my family and my employer. I wanted to break free and explore. During my 6-months sabbatical and consequently transitioning to part-time work, I scratched my travelling and hobbies itch. I don’t want to travel any more!
I am content spending a day of focused work at a co-working space in Berlin. I’m searching for the one activity/job/project/cause that will keep me challenged, energized and fulfilled. You can call it purpose, meaningful work or self-realization. I call it “a life I don’t need a vacation from”. My core values are connection, independence, and wonder. I aim at financial independence because it’s challenging but relatively straight-forward to achieve and it allows for a lot of exploration. But what I’m really after is a life according to my core values.
How much is your “enough”?
I had two realizations ever since. On one hand, to live a full-fledged life beyond the basics, especially in western Europe, I’ll need more than 1K EUR a month.
On the other hand, if I discover what I enjoy doing, it will sooner or later bring income. So there’s no need to worry about the passive income coming every month. In this case, the investments I have accumulated so far would be more than enough.
Where are you on the road to Financial Independence?
I am mid-way to my initial goal of FI (as described above). Which is exactly 2,5 years since I set my 5 years FI goal. I am optimistic that I will reach the goal in 2022, shortly before my 38th birthday. There’s still plenty of time for the compound interest to kick in, and the effects of it will be seen 10+ years down the road.
Here’s how my net worth has developed since I track it:
Disclaimer: My forecast is based on a lot of assumptions. I exclude possible future increases in expenses caused by exceptional and unforeseeable events. These include stock market crashes, change of apartment, raising children, health emergencies, taking long, expensive trips, or an apocalypse.
What do you want to do with your life once you reach Financial Independence?
I see early retirement just like regular life without the pressure of bills, monthly payments, obligations to inefficient work setups, non-inspiring goals, and hierarchical rigid structures.
When I have my expenses covered by a passive or semi-passive income (side hustles, dividends from investments, rent from real estate properties, royalties from photographs, etc.), I will have a hell of a lot of time on my hands! It doesn’t mean I plan to spend it lying in pyjamas on my sofa or sipping cocktails on a sunny beach. Ok, maybe for a while … This will quickly become unfulfilling and tiresome. So what then?
First of all, I will work on projects and causes which interest me, be it for profit or not. I can use my time and skills to make the world a better place in my own way. There is a cause which I support already: children’s education in developing countries (check out RoomToRead – World Change Starts with Educated Children).
Secondly, I can put the time and effort in developing almost any skill or expertise without having to worry about the practical implications – just for the joy of it.
Thirdly, I will have more time to travel, read, meet new people, go to FIRE conferences :P, spend time with my family, experience life in a more relaxed way and write about it. Keep in mind that FI is not a silver bullet and it won’t solve all of your problems. It’s a big life change, and it poses unique challenges such as reinventing your identity, finding a social environment beyond the office crowd, and creating your own schedule. Apply FI with caution!
What is your strategy for reaching Financial Independence?
My strategy is to grow my employment income, save as much as I can and invest in low-cost ETFs. I’m currently strongly invested in DAX (the German stock index, consisting of the 30 major German companies). I want to explore strategies to diversify my portfolio. This will be the focus of the 2nd half of 2019.
Meanwhile, I’m looking into building a side income, and eventually moving to a lower cost location. In my case, this would be Bulgaria, but I see it far down the road. Berlin has too much to offer at the moment – it’s hard to leave the German social system, public transport, and most of all, the creative, international vibe of Berlin.
What will be your financial strategy after reaching FI?
I haven’t thought that far. Ideally, by the time I reach FI, I will be doing work that I enjoy and it will be bringing monthly income. So I wouldn’t even need to touch my investments – they’ll continue to grow.
In any case, I won’t stop working until I’m 200% sure that I’m covered and I know what I want to do with my free time.
What was your biggest financial mistake?
I wouldn’t say I had made a financial mistake. I only wish I could launch a parallel universe and see how things play out in the long run for these 2 decisions: my education and investing in real estate in Berlin.
I chose Informatics for future job security. What I really wanted to study was Landscape Architecture. Landscape architects are the people who are good with numbers and design and have a soft spot for nature. I would love to see how my life would have unfolded if I indeed chose to become a landscape architect – maybe I would have loved it and FI won’t have been of significance?
The second choice I made was not to invest in the real estate market in Berlin. I had the chance to buy rental properties in Berlin twice. After calculating the numbers, it never turned out a good deal, even if the apartments were sold for a relatively low price. It felt like a huge risk which I wasn’t ready to take.
I’m still thinking about it, now that the prices have sky-rocketed. What would have brought a better return – the real estate market or my ETF investments?
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would encourage myself to meet like-minded people sooner. The path to FI can be lonely. My boyfriend shares the same values and goals. But apart from him, there are not many people I can talk to about FI to.
I’m super satisfied and energized to have attended FIWE 2019 – The European Financial Independence week organized by Emma and Robert from What Life Could Be.
The conference was a huge motivation booster and I made many meaningful connections. The journey is continuing even now, after the conference. I stay in touch with many of the participants. We support and keep each other accountable for commitments and goals.
I would have also encouraged myself to start with investing in the stock market earlier. It wasn’t until 2016 when I finally realized I didn’t need a financial advisor or a broker. It was my boyfriend who opened a brokerage account for himself, and I followed his lead. By the way, check out his Youtube channel (in German) for more financial tips.
What’s your wildest dream?
My wildest dream is that everyone on this planet (including me) loved their occupation. No matter what it is – employment, entrepreneurship, raising a family, creative endeavours. Imagine what a world that would be – a world inhabited by caring, passionate people open to give and receive and celebrating the beauty and abundance. Make love not war kind of thing.
My second, not so wild and a bit selfish dream is to live in a house with a view of the mountains, a garden where I can grow flowers and veggies and fruit. I also want to have a dog to go on walks with.
When I grow old I want to be a fit, energetic granny with pink or blue hair who hikes and learns something new every day.
What’s your favourite just-for-fun activity that brings you joy?
My balcony garden brings me a lot of joy. I also like getting intentionally lost. Exploring without a map and a plan is such a wonderful adventure!
One more thing I love doing is going to a co-working space, putting some music on and separating myself from the world, writing my blog or just getting things done in a flow.