Bloggers on FIRE – Total Balance

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.

Bloggers on FIRE Profile Card Total Balance exp

Please briefly introduce yourself to readers

Hello dear (fellow) FIREhub readers! I’m Nick, and I’m a fire-a-holic!

I was born and raised in Denmark but today the world is my home. I travel to distant places on a daily basis by reading my fellow bloggers’ wonderful tales from around the globe 😉

I’m married to TeOW (The Extraordinary Wife) and together we have a beautiful daughter who’s now been in our lives for 5 years. 

We live north of Copenhagen (the capital of Denmark) in the rural parts of the greater Copenhagen area, in an old farmhouse from the 1800s. Yes, it’s as idyllic as it sounds, and no – it’s not cheap…

I’m an IT engineer and I’ve worked in “the industry” for about 15 years. The first 5-10 years was kinda fun, but now I’m sick and tired of it…

What is your backstory?

I’ve tried to explain my backstory on the blog In 4 different “sections” called: The Story , The Life, The Plan & The Fire.

But I will try to give you a short recap here:

Not happy at work. Switched jobs numerous times. Still not happy at work. Got some body-therapy. Bought a summerhouse. Sold a summerhouse. Had a pile of cash. Started looking for ways to invest said pile of cash. Fast forward, and now we’re here! One year into my FIRE journey after having discovered the wonderful teachings of the FIRE community.

The extra condensed version is: I’ve always had a nag for piling cash.

In FIRE I’ve found a (greater) purpose for said nag. With great power comes great responsibility (yes that was a Spider Man reference!). Having found this little “niche of life” that I now share with all you other FIRE seekers (current and future), I feel like my journey now has a greater purpose: to inspire others to discover their own path to freedom. Hence, the Total Balance blog was born.

I’m still early in my journey. But I have no doubt that I will get there eventually.

Why do you want to reach Financial Independence?

I’ve realized that working in the industry I’m in – IT – is probably never really going to make me truly happy. The problem with IT is that it pays really well! If I could (easily) find a job in a different industry making me an income comparable to my current salary for a similar amount of hours (I work 35-36 hours per week), I would jump at it in a heartbeat!

It seems, though, that I somehow always “trained” to become FI which I’ve written a little about in my backstory on the blog. So after discovering the basics behind how one could become financially independent, I felt like this was somehow my destiny. It sounds really corny, I know – but I’ve always been really motivated by doing something different from everybody else. I’m open and honest with my friends and family about my FI goals, but nobody really understands it (except my friend Scotty), and I don’t think people really believe it (to be possible) either. I’m going to prove to them that it IS possible…

Hopefully, my journey can inspire others to embark on their own journey.

How much is your “enough”?

My short-term LEAN FIRE goal is a portfolio of €400,000. But to live a comfortable life for the rest of my days (not counting my pension), I guess I would want to double that to be on the safe side. I’ve yet to change my goal, as reaching €400.000 would mean I could cover my (our) basic living expenses for quite some time, and I’d hate to overshoot my already fairly far-away goal (10-15 years out, currently).

Where are you on the road to Financial Independence?

I’m one year into a journey which I believe (hope) should take me 10-15 years (according to my calculations). I’m about 18% towards my short-term goal of a Total Balance of €400.000 (my LEAN FIRE goal…).

What do you want to do with your life once you reach Financial Independence?

This is one of those questions which I’m actually struggling to answer. I know (from reading a lot of post-FIRE blogs) that FI should be about running towards something – not running away from something. Which, I admit, is currently my main motivation from wanting to FIRE. I’ve worked 15 years in IT, and it seems corporate bullshit and office politics have become my greatest adversaries. So when I become FI I want to live a life with less (if not 0) corporate bullshit and office politics 😛

What is your strategy for reaching Financial Independence?

Work hard in a job that pays well, save, invest, sleep, repeat!

To me it’s that simple, really. I’m not too keen on sacrificing my current (somewhat lavish) lifestyle in order to reach FI quicker. I’m comfortable with my life as it is. So my savings rate could definitely improve but it would require some sacrifices that I’m currently not willing to make. I envy people whose savings rate surpasses 50%. I applaud them for their dedication, though! If I were to start over, I’d definitely hold back on the lifestyle inflation 😉

What will be your financial strategy after reaching FI?

My financial strategy once I become FI is not to run out of money before I die! HA!

I suppose that’s a given – but HOW isn’t…

Truth be told, I haven’t really thought that far ahead. Right now, I’m heavily invested in real estate. And I intend to remain heavily invested in real estate as I feel the (fairly) predictable nature of rental income works well with my personality. I haven’t given much thought to my safe withdrawal rate as I find it difficult to imagine how my life will look 15-20 years into the future. 

Because of the nature of our tax-laws in Denmark, ideally I’d want income from 3-4 different kinds of asset types (crowdlending is taxed one way, capital gains and dividends on stocks in another, and rental income is somewhere in between – depending on how you structure your properties).

Originally, it was my plan to build up a nest-egg and deplete it to 0 by the time my (private) pension kicks in when I’m 60. But my private pension will obviously suffer greatly by my (early) retirement when I’m 50, so I don’t think that would be a solid plan. I don’t think I would be able to feel truly free unless I was able to live off the dividends/rent/interest of my portfolio WITHOUT actually depleting it. This might add a few years to my journey. But once I get closer to my short-term goal (of a €400.000 portfolio) I will have to adjust my strategy accordingly.

What was your biggest financial mistake?

In 2009 my uncle offered to sell me his old Audi 80 (it was from 1993). He wanted DKK 25.000 (€3.333) for it, which was a very fair price (it was cheap, actually – given that it was in good condition and had low mileage). 

I decided not to buy it and leased myself a brand new BMW 1-series instead. Over the course of the next three years that car cost me almost DKK 190,000 (€25,333). I made good money at the time and had low living expenses (lived in a 1-bedroom apartment with my girlfriend – who would later become my wife). So driving a nice new car was of course something that was required (cars have always been my vice). During the next 10 years I spent almost DK 1,000,000 (€133,333) leasing new “luxury” cars. I now lease a reasonably priced car and we own my wife’s car. It’s my goal to skip my leased car eventually and take my bike to work! (No-one who knows me actually believes that that will ever happen…).

To make matters worse, a couple of weeks ago I parked next to a 1993 Audi 80 at my (new) job…10 years later that car was still running! (It wasn’t the same car as it was a different colour).

In short: Cars have been my biggest financial mistake (and to some degree continue to be so…).

Can I have two biggest mistakes? – My second biggest mistake would be buying a (too expensive) house from 1850…

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t buy a house from 1850!

Oh, and go read Rich Dad Poor Dad!

Truth be told, I have very few regrets. I’ve never cried over spent money – crying about it won’t magically make it reappear in your wallet anyway. The money I spent/decisions I made ultimately led me to where I am today (a place where I’m grateful to be). We’re all on a journey to discover our future selves. Whatever will be, will be 😉

(But hold back on the lifestyle inflation, young padawan!)

What’s your wildest dream?

To own a yacht, because everybody who owns one seems to be so happy and fulfilled!

Just kidding! 😛

I used to dream about becoming a professional soccer player, but that ship has kind of sailed! Truth be told, I think most soccer-playing boys have that dream at one point. Today I understand that being a professional soccer player requires A LOT of sacrifice, A LOT of hard work, A LOT of understanding from your spouse/family and A LOT of “wasted” time “in transit”. In many ways, a professional soccer career can be compared to that of one seeking to become FI; hard work and dedication for a long time, and then (if you’ve done well for yourself) you get to “retire” and start a new career or do whatever you want with your freedom.

I know it sounds boring but all I really dream about (now) is my freedom. The freedom to choose how I spend my time.

What is your favourite just-for-fun activity that brings you joy?

I’ve always been very infatuated with American culture, so my joy was great when I discovered that my wife (then girlfriend) had distant relatives in the US. So naturally when we were invited to her distant cousin’s wedding in 2008, I was excited to visit the States for the first time. We’ve since visited many times (and some of the family members even visited us, too). I’m continuously amazed by the Americans’ ability to “work hard and play hard”. When they get home from work, they invite people over (sometimes they don’t even invite them – they just come over!) for a beer and a game of Cornhole! (look it up). So I have to say that in general I enjoy any sort of “garden game” with no real purpose! Purposeless games and sports is my thing! 😛