Europeans on FIRE – Noemi

In our Europeans on FIRE series, we interview people living in Europe who don’t blog to find out what makes them tick. Our aim is to give non-bloggers a voice and hear what they have to say. We hope you enjoy hearing from people you’ve never heard of before!

If you’d like to take part in Europeans on FIRE, contact us at hello[at]firehub[dot]eu and we’ll send you the details.

You can find a full list of our Europeans on FIRE interviews here.

Europeans on FIRE Profile Card Noemi 2 exp

Please briefly introduce yourself to readers

Hi fellow FIRE seekers,

My name is Noemi, I am a woman in my 30s. I live in Germany in a shared flat, which is quite common for students, but actually I have lived in shared houses or flats only after finishing my studies, by choice: it’s frugal and convivial.

I am happy and grateful I have found my soul mate who shares many values, goals and views with me, including minimalism, a sustainable/ecological life style, a love for the outdoors, and yes, even FIRE.

As I don’t like my current job, I have gone back to studying health psychology besides my job (distance study), and plan to do a career change in a few months.

You might have seen my name here on FIREhub before as I am a curator, writer and work behind the scenes. I started organising local FIRE meetups this year. 

What is your backstory?

I grew up in a middle class family. My dad always had an emergency fund, overpaid the mortgage and made sure we would go on vacation once per year, even if it was “just” camping (which I loved by the way) and not going abroad. I remember as a kid, I once saved several weeks of my pocket money, with no particular goal in mind, only to discover that my brother had stolen part of that hard saved money! Did that incident influence my way of handling money? I never thought about it that way, I had nearly forgotten this story.

During my studies, I never saved any money. When I started working, I even developed a habit of using the overdraft of my bank account regularly, as my bank had an offer that asked no interest rates for overdrafting a few days. I lived in Paris at that time, a very expensive city, and the salaries I earned during my 5 years in France were relatively low.

It was only when I was about 30 years old, when I had a decent salary, that I thought I should put some money aside for (traditional) retirement. I started reading a few books and many many personal finance blogs. I built up an emergency fund for the first time in my life, and bought my first ETF shares.

I had seen blog posts about Financial Independence, but always thought that it wasn’t for me. After all, those guys were all working in IT, finance or engineering, earning enormous salaries. However, one day I played around with the FIRE calculator on and saw that it was possible for me to reach FIRE. Not in five or ten years but still way before traditional retirement age.

I didn’t like my job and already lived a rather frugal and minimalist life. So I started saving and investing more money, and got in contact with the FIRE community by attending FIWE 2017. It was awesome meeting so many inspiring mind-like people. And we founded there!

Why do you want to reach Financial Independence?

At first, it was because I didn’t like my job. Now I see the bigger picture.  It’s not any more running away from something, but a desire to do good (volunteering) and being more in tune with who I really am. More on that later in the interview.

Will I turn into a volunteering superwoman once FI?
(Comic source)

How much is your “enough”?

I aim for a lean FIRE number of a few hundred thousands Euro. Then I’ll decide if I continue working full or part time, or if I do a sort of Barista-FI, i.e. I would semi-retire and have a small job that gets me a few Euros a month. Since I learned about the Barista-FI concept a few months ago, I quite like the idea. I can think of many jobs that would be fun doing for only a couple of hours per week.

I live a rather frugal and minimalist lifestyle and don’t need a lot of money. My partner neither, so I think not too much lifestyle inflation will happen over the years.

Where are you on the road to Financial Independence?

I’m currently about 25% in my lean FIRE goal.

My savings rate has dropped down this year as I started doing a Masters degree in health psychology besides my job. I have the hefty rate to pay for my studies each month and I reduced my working hours, so I also get paid less. I will do a career change in a few months and don’t know how much I will earn in my new job.

If I continued working full time in my current job, I would have been FI in my mid forties. But it wasn’t an option for me to continue working in a job and an industry I don’t like and can’t identify myself with. I don’t have a car, I bike to work every day, and recently I have been taking part in a demonstration against a big automotive fair – but I work for an automotive supplier. I am pretty sure some of my customers were at that automotive trade show I was demonstrating against. Somehow schizophrenic, right? That’s why I’m (finally!) leaving this job at the end of the year.

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

I definitely have a lot of ideas of what I want to do once I will work a lot less (semi- retirement/Barista FI) or stop working for money altogether. It would be a good mix of:

I was so excited and busy the day I got my first bees that I
basically took only this one boring photo 🙂
  • Volunteering: FI for impact! I already volunteer for and in my local beekeeping association. I would love to do more: fight global warming is on top of my list.
  • Bee keeping and gardening: I already have honey bees, and I had the opportunity to get a garden plot at the outskirts of my city to place my bee hives on – but a requirement was to also grow vegetables and fruit. I had to decline for lack of time, but I would love to grow my own veggies and fruit! It’s so relaxing and rewarding and it tastes better and is cheaper than in the supermarket.
  • Learning and reading: there are tons of great online courses on the internet, many of them are free. Offline courses can be interesting as well to learn about things related to my hobbies or volunteering activities. Reading a good book or a thought provoking article from time to time would definitely be part of my life as well.
  • Spending time with friends and family, that’s really important!
  • Sports: I would continue my daily morning yoga session but probably extend it. I would also do more hiking and probably start another sport.
  • Optional: paid work, see the Barista-FI remark above. A meaningful or fun job, just a couple of hours per month.

What is your strategy for reaching Financial Independence?

Individual stocks and ETFs, both in a buy and hold approach. I played around with crowd investing and P2P/P2B credits in the past, but I am no longer convinced by this. This has always been only a small part of my net worth though, and I do not reinvest.

The issue I see with ETFs is that they also invest in companies that clearly go against my values: arms industry, petrochemicals, big CO2 producers, you name it. How can I build my wealth indirectly on this and then volunteer for environmental causes and the like? That’s once again kind of schizophrenic.

I haven’t found a solution for this. Good ideas, anyone?

Maybe real estate? I am in two minds about it: sometimes, I find real estate appealing, a good way to diversify, leverage my money and have an income stream or live rent free. Then I think about the downsides of it: difficult tenants, complicated paperwork, often a low return if calculated honestly, etc. At the moment, the prices in Germany are too high anyway. Let’s see what the future brings.

The same goes for creating my own business. It could be part of a solution of the dilemma I face with ETFs. But I don’t have an outgoing entrepreneur personality; I work best in a small team.

What was your biggest financial mistake?

Not starting saving and investing earlier.

Luckily, I haven’t lost money in expensive and intransparent insurance or bank products. This is thanks to the personal finance blogging community. I skipped the “learning through bad experiences” part and went straight to the cost effective do-it-yourself ETF strategy.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t touch that overdraft on your bank account. Build up an emergency fund, and one for holidays or treating yourself. …See how easy it was? So continue saving! (Well, we can’t turn back time, so no regrets.)

What’s your wildest dream?

Peace on earth and a healthy and sustainable living for all beings.

I recently saw the film Tomorrow for the second time. It’s an intelligent feel-good documentary that shows that the world is full of solutions to the urgent issues the world is facing: great projects, intelligent ideas put into practice, sustainable companies, good practices, cities or communities that apply smart solutions to improve everyday life. There is even a part about banks and money. I can really recommend this film! Before the screening of the film in our local cinema, a bunch of non-profit organisations briefly presented themselves. These were great local organisations I could join or use one of their clever solutions! (If only I had more time…this is where FIRE comes in!)

When leaving the cinema, I had this vision of living in a friendly, supportive community – neighbourhood/FI-village/co-housing/… – who works together to make the world a better place and has fun doing it!

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

Hiking in the Alps

Being outdoors in good company.

I went hiking in the alps with my family for three consecutive years, and I loved it! Crossing the alps by foot (even stretched over two summer holidays) was great. Doing it together with my mum was a once in a life time experience. This year, she was not fit enough and I did a 9-day tour with my partner’s family.

Noemi Interview Image 4
In my favourite nearby hiking area for day trips

I regularly go for walks or hiking day trips with friends or my partner. Breathing fresh air or the smell of pine trees, feeling the soft ground of a wood underneath my feet, tasting delicious wild berries, observing insects and other animals, enjoying a nice scenery – sometimes, little wonders are just around the corner …