Categories
Financial Planning Post Rant

Ideas for Surviving job loss in the Corona recession.

Arbeitslosigkeit durch Corona by Zeit.

It is all very convenient to write as a blogger to invest the dips, and I did this too last week! Lets get real, we are facing a very high chance of recession and job loss soon. Thus surviving job loss is a very real theme for so many of us.

Why talking about surviving job loss and income loss is important, now?

As Germany crossed 10,000 Coronavirus cases this morning, we are heading for a complete shut down.

The fact is that retail shops, travel agents, salespersons, cooks, restaurants, waiters, their suppliers, airports, airlines, ground staff, freelancers, event management companies, movie theaters, arts and many more are at severe risk of losing their jobs. Globally the picture is no different and its already starting to get ugly for some.

We are going to face millions of job losses, crushed busines demand, and misery.

Even if this virus goes away as trillion dollars pump into the market, funding for dying companies, it will take years to recover. The Dow Jones has plumetted 2000 points today(had to change this while writing!) 33% less than all time high a month ago! A MONTH AGO!

All this, within 20 working days!

Surviving job loss: Emergency fund.

Every FI blogger has talked about it. For some of us, this is already too late. If you have already lost your job, income and do not have enough to cover then you must reach out for benefits.

If you are still in your job, fear the reduction of pay or job loss, this is the time to tighten your belt. However, If you are confident to ride through, go read another post.

  • Save everything you can, be super frugal, avoid any unnecessary purchases.
  • If you can save 6 months of expenses, try 8 months, if you can do 8 months, try 10 months.
  • Were you planning a apartment purchase? Delay it.
  • If you were planning to get a car, even an old one, delay that!
  • Do not invest in the market, stay away and hold cash

Surviving job loss: Arbeitslosgeld

There is no shame in this, you have been paying into the social security for times like these. As things escalate, more people will seek this and there will be delays in handling all the capacity.

Please visit the Arbeitsagentur website (in English too). You must immediately inform them of a job loss as soon as you know have a confirmation from your employer. You can also call at +49 (0)800 4 5555 00

Please make copies of your payslips, bank statement, resume and existing job contract ready. You will need those.

Surviving job loss: Fix your living situation

The next advice is not for all, neither is something I prefer. If push comes to a shove, find a room-mate to share rent, or move in with your family.

Surviving job loss: German Governents loan scheme

Over 2.3 million people work as self employed, they are at significant risk. There is a high chance there will be a scheme to help them through a 0% loan or more. I will update this post, when this is concrete.

PS: The worst part of writing this post was that coronavirus numbers went up by 1500 since I started writing, and Dow plunged from 1000 to 2000 points in the same duration. Also, I am searching for more sensible solutions if you have some.

Categories
Financial Planning Index Funds and Stocks Post

Staying sane when the Stock Market Crash has eaten your savings!

Image result for market crash

Couple of days ago I talked about Surviving Stock Market crash of 2020, the market, oil and bitcoin all are going down south. My portfolio is at -7%, 2.5 years of regular investing has vanished. It could simply go down further but it will not crush my Financial independence dreams.

How can I stay clam when the Stock Market crash has destroyed my savings?

I do not know the answer to this.

It is not easy to see our savings burn up in so quickly. It takes me several months to save up money and its not easy to see it simply burn away.

Prioritize your family’s safety first!

The Stock Market Crash was triggered by the coronavirus, this is a real health threat and we all are at risk.

Safety of your family comes first! If you are in an at-risk industry like travel, music, airports, restaurants or similar, you must first make sure that you have sufficient cash in case of a job loss or sudden medical expense is needed. This could be anywhere between 3-6 months of expenses. A Stock Market Crash often result in companies going down under, and an added threat of coronavirus will only make this harder to recover

Invest, only if you can stomach it and can stay put for a few years!

My favorite Financial independence author JH Collins wrote on his blog about the 1987 market crash and how he reacted to it. It seems to be a great idea to invest all surplus cash into the market, either through stocks or simply buying cheaper index funds.

At the same time, be aware of:

  • We don’t know what is the bottom (and when), so the stocks can continue to fall for next months (average bear markets last 4 to 11 months).
  • Companies will fail and die, so your bets might fall flat!
  • If you think recovery is quick, you might be surprised.

So, one of the ways to safeguard against the wobbly race to the bottom of the stock market crash is to invest in intervals. In case you have 2000$ to invest, instead of going all in a single day, average this out to say 100 $ per week for 20 weeks instead. This is DCA in a nutshell.

Don’t invest if…

  • You want the money back in 12-18 months
  • Your job can be at risk, be very aware
  • You are not comfortable, just don’t listen to an unknown guy’s blog post to do it if you do not believe in it.

Finally, keep calm and carry on. Sell if you feel you cannot recover at all, but before this please read this thread from 2008’s crisis! We aren’t the first ones facing this, and it isn’t the last Stock Market crash we’d see!

Categories
Financial Planning Index Funds and Stocks

Survival guide to the 2020 Stock Market crash

not stonks meme
Not Stonks!

Today after three weeks of volatility, the markets, oil and bitcoin are all in a free fall. An year ago I had talked about the impending recession and the market was going all up! This morning we have the first red signs of the 2020 Stock market crash, some already call today as the Black Monday. Within last 2 weeks, my gains from 33% have come down to 6% this morning, and can go lower.

In 2008/09 I was still studying and was not an investor. If you are like me, then this is the first time for you to go through this. I am penning down three potential approaches which make up this survival guide to the 2020 Stock Market crash.

Tip #1: Book profits now, enter the stock market at lows

This is brilliant advice, follows on the famous Buffet quote,’Buy when market is in fear and sell when its greedy.’ The only challenge is, when to exit and when to enter?

If you think you can do it, then sell and book profits, use stop/loss specially for stocks and wait on. However, nobody knows when you hit the bottom of the 2020 stock market crash.

Tip #2: Stay Put, Time in the Market is more important than Timing the Market!

Solid advice again, most FI bloggers will keep repeating it ad infinitum. There is value in it, there is a great reddit thread which I can suggest you to read.

The underlying belief is that if you continue buying at fixed intervals you will still benefit from the low prices of stocks (averaged out or DCA). Of course, the argument to that is that when stocks are cheap, why not buy more? Afterall, a stock market crash is an opportunity!

And then, there have been so many articles which always talk of a person investing in Market crash of 2008 and then becoming rich, that sounds like timing the market and not staying put.

Tip #3: Stay put, and yet try timing the Stock Market!

This is going to be my approach, and I do not have a lot of spare money just 4-5k EUR which I can time with! It won’t make me a millionaire.

  • I will continue staying put i.e. the long term index funds will continue to be invested automatically, as always planned inspite of the 2020 Market crash.
  • I will spend my spare cash into buying some handpicked stocks which I felt were overpriced, these are mostly large caps and also long term plays. My target price usually is that if my preferred stock is 30-40% cheaper than ATH, it can be a buy.
  • I will not attempt to make short term gains, and that is beyond my risk taking capacity.
  • I recognize the risk that companies I invest in, might go under or not recover for a long term.

Caution: We tend to look at history of stock markets and its rebound to look for recovery. Markets like Japan’s Nikkei was at 27000 in 1991, and after recessions/stagflation, even in 2020 it could only reach a high of 24000. So, beware of confirmation bias.

Nikkei was at 27000+ in 1991, it never got to the same level in 29years!

What is your approach for the impending sell off? Join me on twitter if you want to hear more from me : GetFI Twitter

Categories
Financial Planning Progress Report

Investing is complicated. Read this if you agree.

When there are dozens of books and hundreds of blogs offering great advice, why do it still feel that investing is complicated?

I hold a business degree, and have studied a little bit of accounting, cost accounting, financial management and economics. I have also been interested in economics for a while, and yet I felt investing is complicated. The result was a slow start and missed opportunities.

Mr A’s investment growth over the years. Very slow to start.

I opened my Depot account (investment account) with Comdirect in 2015, and was in my baby steps. By 2017 I had really gotten on-board with the whole FI theme and investments as the essential thing to do for the long term financial independence.

If you look at the chart, the timeline doesn’t match the dates I just mentioned! I was investing no more than 28 EURs a month in 2015, and could grow it to 400 per month in 2017, later dipped to 330 per month in 2018. Why did I need 24 months to grow from 28 to 330 EUR of investments per month? I had all the cash lying around anyhow!

Investing is complicated because doing something is different from knowing it.

Last year I was listening to this podcast, where they discussed why home improvement or DIY Youtube videos are so addictive and yet they do not result in us picking any new hobbies. This is after watching all those videos which teach us how to do the stuff! The same principle applies to investing as well, just knowing it often doesn’t translate into doing it.

The barriers which affect your ability to invest are Time, Fear and Uncertainty of outcomes.

  • Time: I felt that I need to spend a few hours each month to manage my savings, and its time away from other things in life. Solution: Automate your investments every month, you can even buy stocks in part each month.
  • Fear: I am putting money into a fund or stock, its like putting into someone else’s pocket not knowing if it returns? Solution: Understand your relationship with money and why do you think so. Understand that this is not a lottery but you are buying a piece of different functioning businesses.
  • Uncertainty: There is no guarantee that my investments will give me decent returns, its all far to risky and unsafe. Solution: True, there is uncertainty, but if you aim for the average returns in the long term, the chance of failing is quite low.

I had the very same fears, and thus I started super slow. We do not get physical certificates for stocks to serve as a proof, neither are there any guarantees. Yet, the day I looked at the stocks which simply had grown 50% in 2 years while I had purchased too few of them, I realized that I had made a mistake of not doing it earlier when they were cheaper. No volume of reading blogs could get me there.

Investing is complicated because there are so many complex concepts to understand

Not really, if you focus on a set of handpicked index funds(or ETFs), all you need to worry is about their expense ratio (money you need to pay them each year to maintain the fund) and brokerage/commission charges from your investment account. Everything else is noise pushed by the finance press.

Sure there is more to talk of when you think of taxes, but that is not a topic to worry even before you start off!

Investing is complicated because we are human

Evolution, we as humans are simply not programmed to plan and act for the long term. We are good at short term stimuli.

  • This is the reason its hard for us to imagine how life will be when we are say 60 years old and not working, specially when we are earning today.
  • This is also one of the reasons why we say, will take care of it later
  • Also the reason behind lack of discipline, and not able to retain weight loss over longer periods.

So, is there a solution to this?

There is no silver bullet here, apart from making yourself aware of the two problems you can fall into:

  • Unable to start investing: This is by far the serious one, not starting means you have simply paralyzed yourself. The loss is all the compounding. So get shit done! There is no other way.
  • Investing too little: Well done on starting, but are you at the optimal level? You should understand the costs of not doing so, use a compounding calculator and find out how much you’d lose for every $$ not invested. Once at optimal level, simply Automate and do not bother looking into it each month.

Did you ever feel that investing is complicated? Please share your experiences with us.

Categories
Financial Planning Real Estate

Buying/Selling Property in India as an NRI from Germany

Property in India for NRIs

This post is a little different theme from the usual ones, more focused on Indians who moved to Germany and need to figure out property/real estate matters in India. This is because I see these questions being asked in various forums about property in India as an NRI from Germany.

….am I an NRI?

NRI or Non Resident Indian, from a tax perspective, has

  • Stayed in Indian for the current tax year for 182 or more days, or
  • In the last 4 years has stayed in India for 365 days or more, of which at-least 60 days in current year.

As a Non Resident Indian, can I buy property in India while living in Germany?

Yes, you need not visit India to buy a property. As an NRI you can only buy residential or commercial property in India. The mechanism to do this is buy giving a special power of attorney to someone in India.

Any payments should be made from your NRO account only.

Can I sell Property in India as an NRI from Germany, without visiting India?

The Power of Attorney(POA) is again the instrument to help you here. However, few very important things to understand. By Law, Power of Attorney does not allow the power holder to sell a property, the transaction is only valid when a clear sale deed is executed. So, the person holding this POA has to enact the sale deed which might need your document signatures and so on.

How to get a Power of Attorney in Germany?

The Embassy of India does this for you, you should reach out to CGI Frankfurt or Berlin. The steps are:

  • Get a power of attorney(called Vollmacht) made by local Notary in the local Landgericht (Court).
  • Take the original and a copy to Embassy, sign this document in the presence of Consular Officer
  • The Embassy then attests your signature.

Of course this is just the first step, in India you will need No Objection Certificate, Occupation Certification, Sanction Certificate and maybe more to finally get it done.

What about taxation after selling property as an NRI from Germany?

After you make the sale of Property in India as an NRI from Germany, the next step usually is to send this money from India to Germany. The below might changed based on tax laws for the year.

  • If the property is sold <2 years of ownership, then 30% capital gains tax will be applied in India
  • If the sale is after >2 years of ownership the tax claim is 20%
  • You might get exemptions under Section 54, if you are reinvesting the proceeds in other property (within a prescribed time limit).

The money should be deposited to your NRO account if you want to remit it to Germany. For sums <US$ 1 million you only need a certificate from a CA proving the source, this is also referred as Form 15CA

Categories
Financial Planning Personal Rant

When you fail to reach savings goals – Survival checklist!

I have a confession to make in this post. In the months of November and December, I failed to reach savings goals. I saved nothing in November and saved half of what I wanted to in December. Es ist mein schuld! It is my fault (schuld is also used as the German word for debt!) and am now trying to cope with lack of discipline while chasing Financial Independence.

Did Black Friday made me fail to reach savings goals?

The truth here is a combination of gift giving and planning for future travel. In the past 30 days I spent money on gifts for our anniversary, my wife’s birthday, a dinner on that birthday and gifts for a friend who just got married. You see a pattern here?

How did I get there?

My failing to save in November was quite disappointing, and I had resolved to make amends in December.

Come December, I fell off the wagon, I avoided reading any FI content to hide behind my shame. Today, I finally felt brave enough to look myself in the mirror and forgave myself.

I have little regret for spending money on people I cared about, and was conscious to not go overboard. What I did fail at was not being able to plan these expenses.

and survival checklist?

Ah yes, the Dave Ramsey approach is to eat rice and beans! My checklist to survive when you fail to reach saving goals:

  • Is this a symptom of a bigger issue? Am I not able to control myself here? No
  • Is this temporary or a permanent expenses which I cannot handle? No
  • Were my savings goals too big that they simply put me off and I felt I won’t get there anyway? Maybe

So, I aimed to save more than 1k EUR per month, and the goal was far too high to achieve. Like my dieting attempts, the high goal simply made progress impossible. In the tight months I could have lowered the targets and survived the frustration.

My survival tip to manage goals is to attempt Incremental changes, small steps lead to big results, else your old habits are hard to break. In fact in a way I just ignored my own advice.

I also suggest this beautiful Everyday App, which makes it super easy to track changes.

Categories
Financial Planning Personal Post Real Estate

Why we have to delay buying our home

I have not been a keen imitator is template dreams, I still do not own a car, and have argued against buying an apartment at home. However, recent changes in the local European interest rates, changes in life situation and simply higher rents made me start believing that we could own a home. However, recent events have just made us decide that we have to delay buying our home.

For Sale

Why buy when you could have rented Mr A?

True. We tried and are failing.

After becoming a parent, the limitations of the space in our current rented apartment and the struggle of our visiting parents climbing 3 flights of stairs made us search for a bigger rented apartment.

Yet, with the constant struggle of applying and never being called to visit, and the few instances when we did get to visit homes, we are facing an uphill challenge where a bare increase of 10 sq.m area is going to cost us 40% more in rent. Rents have simply skyrocketed in the last 3 years. Additionally, we cannot simply move too far as we are bound by constraints of the daycare (already 7 km away). Thus the brilliant idea of buying an apartment was born, and we started to save for it.

You have to delay buying a home, because you do not have the money, isn’t it?

True again. Isn’t that always the case? I had been keeping an eye on a new development which was in a perfect location, and closer to the day care and yet not so far from the town center. An year of more purposeful saving made us come close to around 12% of the house value we had planned for (based on prices in the same area 18 months ago).

The price list came through on Monday, and it simply crashed through our plan. The prices of the apartments have risen higher than we had estimated, and our down-payment is lower than we wanted. I know I can probably get the apartment at 90% mortgage. I am tempted to try this, the apartment seemed perfect and had parks and no drive zone for children. But paying more than 35% of our monthly income for 30 years and extra maintenance money on top is not a financially wise decision. This is not how we Get FI! I do not want to write this purchase to be the title of my next Money Mistake post!

My wife and I had a long discussion this morning, and she just said,’We cannot take a 30 year mortgage which eats 40% of our income, this is stupid given that our child will be out of his daycare in 2.5 years‘.

She is right.

Delay buying a home. Hurts.

So, we have now reassessed our dreams and take a step back. We will save more next year, and are looking at places within our budget. Hopefully it might work out in 2020. I know I really liked that place, but I also like Maseratis

In the end, our homes are our safe spaces, and it is our loved ones which make them a home else they are just brick and cement.

Categories
Financial Planning

Lessons from actual monthly budgets in Germany

Budgeting!

This November, the Reddit Finanzen group had an explosion of budget threads. Many users shared then own actual monthly budgets in Germany and then there were shitposts… As Budgeting is an important step towards financial independence, it just made sense to write this post.

Even since I moved to Germany from India, I have noticed that Money is not a topic which seems to be actively and openly discussed. This was a great opportunity to see how people spend and save, and learn from them. Of course, survivorship bias exists on these posts, where people struggling with budgets do not share their stories (and I respect that).

I have handpicked three posts with very different life stages and circumstances. There are many more on the sub-reddit.

A 26 year old data scientist in NRW

26 year old Data Scientist, with a saving rate of 14.5%
  • The actual in hand pay for this person is 2400 EUR/month (Abzuege means payments to pension system, taxes etc…)
  • He has a decent saving rate of 14.5% each month, but is not investing at all.
  • Things at odd is that he is paying as much as his rent (550 EUR) on living expenses (including Hello Fresh). He explains this by sharing that he doesn’t like to cook a lot. I guess this is where he could optimize.
  • He is also paying for insurance for his girlfriend, which is a noble thing to do.

A double income, single child family in Bavaria

24.5% savings rate with a house paid off!
  • Love the amount of detail on this chart, but I find it also hard to navigate.
  • So the poster is a 50 year old with a wife and child, and is an engineering manager in Munich.
  • The total household income per month (without kindergeld/child money) is 6058 EURs. This is an amazing monthly income to have, and this includes around 427 EURs of passive income!
  • Their savings rate is 24.5% (1408 EURs). He also invests over 1k EURs in private pension plans and ETF.
  • The child is probably a teenager as there is a car insurance (PKV) for him.(wrong here, PKV is private health insurance)
  • They have a fully paid off apartment, and this is fantastic, because most people in Germany don’t own a home!

Unemployed Scientist and his Medicine student wife in their late 20s

Unemployed and yet saving 26%
  • This is by far my favorite post, this completely breaks the idea that you cannot save when unemployed! Of course, unemployment insurance is helping the Scientist
  • Their monthly income after taxes is 1736 EUR/month and yet they are investing 450 EUR/month (26% savings rate!! towards financial independence).
  • They do not own a car(car sharing) and live like students.

GetFI Takeaways from these monthly budgets in Germany

  • Savings and investing is possible at every income level!*
  • Your house rental or credit is a massive factor in better savings rate. All examples had fairly low rentals or a paid off house. I find it very difficult to find a house at those rents in my town.
  • The lack of credit card debt is obvious and good!
  • The stereotype that Germans are cautious with savings instruments seems to hold, many saved a lot but invest very little.

*I believe this to hold true only when housing costs stay <40% of your take home income.

Categories
Financial Planning Rant Real Estate

The debate around Rent control and Rental yields

Twitter, last week, was filled with a trending topic of #eigentumswohnung. The real culprit behind this massive outrage with an article on Rent control in Berlin, titled Ganz schön unsolidarisch.

The writer has ruffled some feathers, talking about people who bought apartments and with rent control, their yields will collapse. Germany, is a rental country, and very few individuals purchase houses. This opinion peace has received a backlash as rent control will be applied for next 5 years in Berlin. The issue in Berlin is a little serious as rental prices have gone up significantly in the last 5-6 years and risk gentrification. Sadly, all of this sudden hate resulted in the writer quitting twitter!

Now, am no expert on this topic, but a few months ago I did listen to Freakonomics Radio and an excellent discussion happened on this very topic, the website covers the most of it. Housing in Germany is a different animal, house supply is also tightly controlled and coupled with ultra low interest rates the prices are inflated. In fact Munich seems to be have been called out for this.

Suche Wohnung - Searching for an apartment
Suche Wohnung – Searching for an apartment

If you are trying to search for a rental apartment in Germany in a big city, you are probably competing against 60-70 other applicants at any given time!

At the time of this writing my portfolio has a cash component of 53% cash, largely because we are trying to save for a car and an apartment. The biggest challenge I face today is that our speed of saving is slower than the real estate price increase in our city.

For us, buying a home for self use is our primary goal, but we know that this will pin us down to a place. While I do not know what the future holds, but surely capping is not the right solution here. The demand for housing, social housing and approval of such plans has lagged all across Germany in the big cities. The fact is, people are moving to bigger cities, and rental control does not fix the lack of supply.

Sure, the rental yields will be lower, but at the current house prices, they are already insignificant. Getting a rental yield of 4% on an apartment of 400k EUR is just not possible, it may not be a great investment and might just get added to list of money mistakes.

Categories
Financial Planning Index Funds and Stocks Post

What is a Sparplan? What is Mr A really doing with his Sparplan?

Sparplan (I am so tempted to add a meme on this is SPARtaa..) is the way out of automatically managing your investments each month. It is an equivalent of a SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) if you are an Indian investor.

….when I login to my bank account, I notice two options, geldsparplan and wertpapiersparplan. What is the difference?

I use comdirect, and they have these two options, the main difference is:

  • geldsparplan – This savings plan simply takes money from your account and deposits into a Tagesgeld account which earns a whopping 0.01% interest (as of this morning) p.a. In other words, not worth it.
  • wertpapiersparplan – This savings plan is the one we need, we can setup a monthly investment amount and usually declare ETFs or even stocks to invest in each month.

….how much do I invest in a Sparplan? How much does Mr A invest each month?

As of this morning, I am investing 1098 EUR into my sparplan each month. This is mostly focused on diversified ETFs and 1 tiny piece of Amazon stock. I will write more about this in Portfolio page soon.

Let my number not scare you, I started really slow. I was investing less than 300 EUR/month an year ago and less than 200 EUR/month 18 months ago (2018).

As I have mentioned before and might do so again, we have to start with small steps and get comfortable. It took me a while to get comfortable with the idea of investing, and I started really slowly. I had never invested in Germany and had been programmed to be more cautious.

Can’t guarantee the numbers, but you catch the drift!

You can start with even 25 EURs/month, then and grow from there.

….what do I invest in? What are the pitfalls?

Picking your investments is a massive undertaking, but has been extensively covered in reddit.com/r/finanzen or on frugalisten.de forums.

The key pitfalls are, all investments carry risk, transaction costs charged by your depot account per transaction and TER (annual expenses) must be considered very carefully.

….but can I not simply buy ETFs each month on the go and not bother with a sparplan?

Yes, of course you can, or you can automate it and forget about it. This is the whole premise of the famous book, The Automatic Millionaire. If you really look at it, it just makes sense, one automated step which simplifies your steps to your Financial Independence.

It makes it easier for me to plan it and worry about one less then thing to do each month.

If you have more questions on sparplan, then write into the comments section.