ERE in Finland

Where are you and where are you going?
Rouva
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:13 pm

Re: Rouva's journal / Finland

Post by Rouva » Fri Aug 19, 2016 1:10 pm

vraxxos, thank you for commenting! It's so easy to become blind to journey behind me when I'm staring forwards and panicking like a deer facing car lights.


Poverty sucks, and I find myself afraid.

I originally learned to budget after my divorce. I was 26, still in university with income less than 800 euros monthly and two toddlers to feed. Because they had health issues, I couldn't work. Now, I could do much better with that income, but back then I didn't have any hardcore thrifty tricks in my sleeve. I remember days when I cried, because the kids were potty-training and I ran out of cleaning solution for the unavoidable messes, and I couldn't get rid of the damned smell. There were several days at the end of each month when I ate nothing but homemade bread because I had just enough money to feed the kids if I didn't feed myself. I lost ten kilos that autumn. All the crying I did for divorce helped to keep the appetite in check.

It got marginally better next year when I got carer's allowance, but for next five years, I lived with a budget where I could not pay a reservation fee for library books I needed for my studies and pay the postage for my friend's birthday gift during the same month. My monthly income was around 1200 euros. 500 euros for mortgage, 500 euros for household costs and groceries and 200 euros for everything else. Getting the second master's degree was pain to budget, even though the fees were nominal compared to other countries.

Fast forward eight years. I have been working for last 18 months. I have no debt and 36K in savings.

This month, my ex announced that he can't pay the child support, and must lower the amount for 100 euros because he broke up with his partner and the mortgage is too expensive.
A disability benefit of 200 euros monthly ended, because we couldn't schedule a meeting with doctor soon enough. We'll get the money back later, but it will likely be in December.
Then one of kids broke his glasses. Luckily, only the frames needed to be replaced, lenses were intact.
Then the same kid got sick again, and I had to take 4 days off work without pay.

With unexpected loss of 800 euros, my budget went off rails, and I panicked. It's ridiculous and sad, but I actually could not sleep because I felt frightened and anxious. I cancelled everything from my weekend holiday to haircut, and when my budget showed I could save 700 euros this month after the cuts, I slept like a baby.

Now I won't have a holiday, and I feel annoyed about it, but if I have to choose between sleep and holiday, I prefer my sleep.

My husband is much more laid back about his budget. But he hasn't experienced what it feels like to be poor. I think that having children in that situation made it much worse for me. My oldest was three at the time, and it took four years before he stopped worrying about money. It was not nice, or fun, or particularly glamorous. Honestly, it sucked.
My child's health issues are frightening me, because I don't want to stop working again. I don't want to go back to living like that. I want security. Ironically, the way to get that security is to go back to strict budgeting, which highlights the issue, reminds me of how terrible it was and makes me afraid.

vraxxos
Posts: 41
Joined: Tue Mar 24, 2015 8:36 am
Location: UK

Re: Rouva's journal / Finland

Post by vraxxos » Fri Aug 19, 2016 6:12 pm

You absolutely do not need to be afraid. From what I can see since you started your log, you have control of money in your life, the money does not control you. You have 36k in savings, you are an educated woman, you have your head screwed on.It sounds to me like you have had many obstacles in life, but you have always overcome them. You can an will continue to do this in the future.

Noedig
Posts: 148
Joined: Tue Aug 26, 2014 10:15 pm

Re: Rouva's journal / Finland

Post by Noedig » Sun Aug 21, 2016 6:28 pm

Rouva,

A moving journal entry there about your life and its trade-offs.

You have put considerable thought into your posts, the language is clear and well chosen.

I hope that your life and budget both gain more slack, so that you can relax a little, and choose to save or not. Discipline is good, but so is leading a good life.

Best wishes.

BTW there is an outside chance I will have to work in Helsinki: I might then have to check with you the truth of Internet statements like "The Finns are uncomfortable with and do not respect smalltalk - it is mere chatter". "If a colleague Finn likes you, they will invite you to get drunk, and/or go to a Sauna". These seem far fetched to me: Time may tell!

Rouva
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:13 pm

Re: Rouva's journal / Finland

Post by Rouva » Sun Feb 26, 2017 9:07 am

vraxxos and Noedig, thank you for your kind words.
Noedig, both those statements are true!

Feb 2017. Current savings: 47k

The situation with my child's health issues is stable, now. The condition is chronic, but the medication is working, and things are calmer now at home. Ironically, now that everything is "normal" (our new normal, I mean), I've been feeling very tired lately. I know it's normal reaction to prolonged stress, but I'm unhappy because I don't have energy to do things which I normally enjoy, like music or writing fanfiction. I'll get there back eventually. I developed a nasty tension headache which flared up every single day when I got tired, and had to start treating it with Azzalure (a botulinum toxin). It's 300 euros every three months, but I'm willing to pay it for painless existence since it works very well for me. As an added bonus, I got rid of my forehead wrinkles. Ha!

With my child's illness, reaching FIRE has gone from priority to pure necessity. Now I need to support two of my children throughout their lives, and my ability to work will be always compromised. It sounds harsh, but I prefer not to sugar-coat the facts. At work, I've met so many families with similar problems that I know how things are likely to go for us.

I've found new hobby, makeup. I never really got it before, and only started to get interested after I finished my capsule wardrobe project. After some hits and misses, I've figured out which products work for me and what I like. I have two foundations, eight lipsticks, three eyeshadow palettes, one blush and so on. It's enough to give variations to play with and learn new things, but not too much. I think the limit for me is that when I look at the mirror in the morning, I can tell which shade of my lipsticks would work with the outift I've put on.

When I first started saving money towards FIRE, I was happy with my appearance as it was. But now I would not feel content with the way I looked before, because I like my current appearance better. I like having a nice hair and getting complements from people I don't know, and I find makeup a relaxing hobby. Amusingly, there is a very ERE-like learning curve here, too. For first four months, I went to cosmetologist to tint my lashes and eyebrows. Then she had a baby and stopped working, and the new cosmetologist wasn't as good. So I taught myself to do it myself, and now I've gotten so good at tinting my lashes and brows that I would never pay anyone else to do it. Same thing with makeup, or facials, or manicures. I've enjoyed the learning curve very much. It's nice feeling to become skilled something, especially when I never thought myself any good at drawing or painting.

It's surprising to see ERE mindset in a hobby which centers around buying things and using them up. The brushes, for example. I have some good brushes and some less good. But I would not buy more, because then washing them would get annoying. Eventually, they will start performing badly and then I can replace them. I don't like buying new products, because I'm particular about colours and how the products feel on my skin, so I tend to stick with something I've liked. That keeps the value of my makeup bag in reasonable sums.

I keep an Excel file of products I have, what I have used up, and my opinions on the products. It's very interesting to see how long they last. A lipliner, used 5-6 days a week, will last 9 months. A 30ml moisturizer costing 5 euros lasted me a month used once a day, while a nicer moisturizer costing 38 euros lasted six months with twice a day applications. I'm currently panning an eyeshadow I like the least, and it takes ages. Seeing how long it takes to use up a product certainly turns me a picky buyer. It's no use buying something I don't love if I'm going to be stuck with it forever. The stores here do not accept returns like in USA.

Rouva
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:13 pm

Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Wed Mar 08, 2017 3:15 am

March 2017: no debt, 50k in investments

I reached 1/4 milestone of my goal yesterday. My original plan was to save up 200 000 before 2022, when I can no longer work full-time, and then just to sit on the money and let it grow while I support myself with my caregiver's allowance and part-time work. I'm a year behind of my original schedule, but it's still achievable.

Children continue to throw curveballs at my budget. The child I'm a caregiver for, got sick and I had to take a day off from work, unpaid (-100 euros). Now it looks likely he has an ear infection, and our local health clinic didn't have any available appointments. They never do. I swear, we have the crappiest local clinic in whole city because we live in a poor area with lot of immigrants, elderly and alcoholics -> they have hard time finding doctors willing to work here, and getting acute appointment is hopeless. I have to take him to private clinic, which is easily -80 euros, plus antibiotics, so today's total is 220 euros for missing work and getting him treated. My son's disabilities make it very hard to tell if he is in pain, since he can't speak, and he's terribly afraid of having his ears checked, so I'll need to hold him still for the doctor. This is a reminder that I really should take up my strength training again.

MDFIRE2024
Posts: 156
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2017 5:09 pm
Location: Germany

Re: ERE in Finland

Post by MDFIRE2024 » Wed Mar 08, 2017 11:00 am

Keep on going. Don't let anybody or anything distract you from your goal. Stay on track and you'll reach your goal. Today I have first read your journal and I like it because it's also a bit about Finland, which is a beautiful country in my opinion.

Rouva
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:13 pm

Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Thu Jun 22, 2017 7:56 pm

MDFIRE2024: Thank you for your encouragement!

The office power games continue, and I'm moving to new position in August. One of the projects I'm working at is tanking (frankly, it was obvious from the beginning and progressed to alarming stage two months ago) and I don't want to be there when it happens. So I called up favours and pushed things in motion, and now I'm leaving to another unit to focus on my specialist subject. More work, more difficult work, and no immediate raise, but staying would have been worse. Unfortunately, I feel quite drained now. Scheming requires lot of planning and effort, making me exhausted in a long run, and I'm not fully comfortable with the consequences of my career ladder progress. Impostor syndrome, anyone? That's what you get from growing up in working class and doing extremely well on white-collar job.

Yesterday I visited the ministry first time. They wanted to interview me on my specialist subject. The building had a shiny marble toilet, but the towel roll had ran out. I found it quite ironical. The peak of my career, and the bathroom of my 70s Soviet-Style apartment has better facilities although no marble. This is a prime example of why I'm having hard time adjusting. I was raised to believe that institutions such as ministry or parliament are something especially fine and unreachable, and only Very Important People ever even see the building from outside. And when I get there, what's the message I'm passing to my children? Well, children, the ministry has really crappy toilet and they don't even offer you a drink of water even if they expect you to speak for two hours. If you have to go there, bring a bottle with you. :roll:

I have one week left at work and then a summer vacation for a month. I originally planned to have my vacation in late summer, but it was a choice between having it now or not having any, thanks to job move. I feel a pressure to relax and unwind, because returning to work means getting to know new people and navigating more office politics and more visits to new places with shiny marble bathrooms. A pressure to relax is contradictive, but I fear that if I don't plan something, I end up vegging in front of my computer for four weeks and come back as tired as I'm now. The new vacation date doesn't work with childcare or any other arrangements I had planned, and that probably adds to my stress.

MDFIRE2024
Posts: 156
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2017 5:09 pm
Location: Germany

Re: ERE in Finland

Post by MDFIRE2024 » Thu Jun 22, 2017 11:53 pm

I am also going to have vacation soon. I try to simulate my FIRE lifestyle when I don't work. Usually I travel, but this time I want to try how it feels if I stay at home and do things in my surrounding during my vacation. Maybe if you think about some activities in order to have structure, purpose and community you will enjoy a great vacation and relax. Don't stress yourself though. It is your vacation. It is your time.

Rouva
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:13 pm

Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Mon Jul 03, 2017 6:40 am

MDFIRE2024: I usually have staycations. I hope you enjoy yours :)



Vacation has made me much more aware about material costs of my job. I went through my wardrobe and decided that I have to put away my favourite dress after two years of use because it's starting to look worn. The fabric is noticeably paler around the seams, and it's something which can't be fixed without dye. Even that would be only a temporary solution, and the end result could still be horrible. When I started the journal here and did not work yet, we had "three holes in a garment-> trash"-rule in the house. But now I went to department store and paid 150 euros for a new red sheat dress to replace the worn dress in my capsule wardrobe.

I read "Your money or your life" few years ago, and even though I found their system tiresomely detailed, I agree about hidden costs of choices. I make marginally more money now than when I was a social worker, but the salary increase is easily eaten by the increased grooming costs . My department is led by women, and they are the best-dressed people in the whole organisation. (There is interesting correlation between different departments, actual power and clothes at my workplace. I find it fascinating.) I've found "looking the part" extremely useful in my career climbing endeavours, and I'm not going to switch back to thrift-store t-shirts even if it would be cheaper. Instead, I attempt to keep my wardrobe and makeup costs in reasonable sums by buying intelligently, looking for sales and following the capsule wardrobe principles. I had my colours done professionally two years ago, and I've found it extremely useful tool. All my clothes match, I don't own lipsticks which make me look like a corpse (had one as a free sample yesterday, and I was surprised to see how bad it looked. Gifted it to my daughter, who has cool colouring and it was lovely on her) or make bad purchases.

One practical example of chain reaction costs is skincare. I use over-the-counter retinol serum, since it kills all zits and gives me a luminous skin. After the initial purge period, it's been great. On the downside, retinol makes my skin more prone to burning than usually. (Which is quite a lot, since I'm NC10-15. Hurrah.) I have to use sunscreen, and I recently tried to switch sunscreens because my old one was too expensive and I got sunburn despite it. I picked Biore sunscreen which is widely acclaimed and cheap, and got painful acne. Then I had to buy more sunscreen since Biore obviously did not work, buy a new jar of more-expensive-but-definitely-safe moisturizing cream, and a bottle of BHA to clear my skin. Without retinol, I would not have needed any of that.

What I'm saying is that working in my current position is pushing me towards the less perfect choices in many things. I don't have enough time to do things in most efficient way, or other circumstances prevent making the best choice. I have to accept it, and redefine some of my expectations to get through this work project and have some kind of life outside work, too.

I love fanfiction writing, but it requires at least eight hours for a new chapter. If I'm feeling stressed or drained, I can't write, and the stories are my most important source of relaxation. This spring, I spent many evenings just sitting at computer and feeling stressed for feeling too stressed to make anything. I don't want to leave unfinished work, because it adds to stress. I decided to set a goal of finishing my current stories during this vacation and focus on something else. I'm loath to give up a hobby I enjoy, but it's not feasible to continue this with my current workload. I will come back to writing stories after I'm done with the project (and FIRE). It's better than feeling upset about something which should bring pleasure.

Another thing I've decided to redefine is exercise and diet. I've gained weight this spring (reading my previous journal entries, it seems to happen whenever I'm stressed at work) and I want to get it off. But I don't want to start counting calories, because it would be one thing more I have to focus on. I decided to try a different approach.

Starting from May, I've practiced Lean Habits by Georgie Fear. She's a registered dietician and the book is available at Amazon. So far, I've nailed two habits. The basic idea is to start from first habit and practice it until it feels natural and doesn't require conscious effort. One should work on a habit at least two weeks before adding a second one.

Eating 3 meals in a day and waiting until I'm hungry for 30-60 minutes have not changed my weight, but I have noticed changes in my appetite. I'm feeling much more calm, and my hunger isn't so sharp. I'm losing my sweet tooth and my craving for caffeine has lessened. I used to eat 100 grams of candy every day, but now I can go several days without, and for last two weeks, I've been unable to eat my usual portion on Fridays when we buy sweets for everyone at home. I pick few candies and then give the bag to someone else. This morning, I was unable to finish a slice of cake because I simply didn't want to eat it. Also, my caffeine intake has gone down for 50%. I drink two cups of black tea in a day and that's it. I seem to require less sleep.

Another thing I've changed is my exercise. I like strength training, and I've had good results from working out at gym. Training 4 times in a week would be ideal, but it is not something I'm willing to commit to right now. I've tried, but this spring I've been unable to keep a constant schedule. I terminated my gym membership, and started training at home, but it didn't help. 10 000 swings challenge wiped me out and after two weeks, I had no energy for anything else. Pavel Tsatsouline's Simple & Sinister gave me great progress results like ability to do Turkish getups with 16kg bell, but even that turned me into a zombie for the rest of the evening. If I trained, I didn't have energy left for anything else.

I think I've found a compromise with Zgym. It's online streaming service with different progressive programs and several new workouts every week. Mostly HIIT/bodyweight training, and the workouts range from 5 - 30 minutes daily. Subscription costs 10 euros in a month. I've enjoyed the workouts more than I expected, and most importantly, I've been consistent for over two weeks. Doing something new every day keeps my interest fresh, and the workouts are hard enough to make endorphins flow despite the short time. I've developed odd hate/love relationship with burpees and the insane amount of squats I'm doing, and the madness has spread to my six-year-old who insists on "training" with me every single day.

This type of training is not ideal for my goals, but it's something I can commit to. Even if I had an exhausting day, it's hard to say no for ten minutes, and ten minutes are better than doing nothing. I'm not the type to enjoy light exercise like walking a dog. I want to lie in the pool of my own sweat and be happy I didn't die. Zgym delivers that. There are free videos with HIIT training, but I don't want to spend time looking through Youtube and trying to decide if the workout is too easy/hard/long/the instructor annoys me/whatever. So I've judged 10 euros a reasonable cost for establishing a daily exercise routine. When I'm done with FIRE saving, I can start to think about gym and my goals, but right now they are not a priority.

I hope that by streamlining all these things I could achieve a reasonable work/life-balance. Last month, I succeeded to meet my minimum savings goal of 2000 euros to stay on the ERE schedule. It would be easier if I could switch jobs, but my project is tremendously important for me because it will cause a major change in disability services and my disabled son's future. If I do this right, he and all others like him will have a real chance to make their own choices and actually meet their needs like they should be met. So I simply will have to push through, and put my other interests on hold until it's done.

Rouva
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:13 pm

Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Fri Jul 07, 2017 2:27 am

July 2017: 55K

I met a work buddy yesterday. We celebrated her leaving one of my former offices, and now I have a slight hangover, meaning I'm sluggish. My alcohol tolerance has really gone downhill with age. I can notice the effects of even one alcohol dose on the next day - I'm more tired than usually despite sleeping well, and exercise feels harder - and now I had five. I think last time when I had more than two drinks was in January (outing with another friend). Note to self: stick to two doses at maximum if drinking can't be completely avoided.

It looks like I'm just able to meet my saving goal for this month. I'm not pleased, because I've racked up a credit card bill which is much higher than I'd want. In March, I set a goal to reach 70 000 this year, and after three months of careless spending, I have to bump my savings rate up to get there. Currently my savings rate is 58%, but I need to get it to 72%. I'm confident it will work out, because I've done this before. Having a clear goal number motivates me, and channeling my work stress towards saving instead of clothes and cosmetics is much better solution in long term. So I aim to get 70 000 this year, and 100 000 in 2018.

Drawing from investments is not viable way to live because Finnish taxation is very harsh. The tax rate for investment income is 30%, and 34% if investment income is over 30 000 in a year. The taxes for earned income are progressive, and a better deal until one reaches the median income. The median income for private sector is 3 193 euros / month, but 2707 euros for a municipality employee like me.

My salary is 3000 euros in a month, 2100 after taxes. Taxes include compulsory pension contribution, unemployment insurance and health insurance. For those not familiar with Finnish pension system, here is a short description. Since I also work as a carer, I get 285 euros from that. The rest of my income comes from child benefit (everyone who has kids gets this from government, and it scales up with the number of kids), disability benefits (meant to compensate for extra costs of long-time disabilities and conditions) and child support.

My goal isn't retirement when I reach 200 000. I will just stop the active saving then, and look for a part-time job, or start a business so I could manage my own schedule better, but I will continue working in some manner because I like it. Three or four days in a week would be ideal. I see my savings more like a backup stash. I could live on my current income even without work, but the balance is precarious. Any large bill, like a hospital stay or unexpected delay in payments could cause a mess, and small income also limits the available choices. When I was full-time carer, we had to pass opportunities we would have taken if the money wasn't an issue. I want to be able to pay reasonable, beneficial costs for my disabled son since he won't be able to earn the money on his own. For example, there is a boarding school for disabled people which is very nice place. We've spent several weeks there in previous years, and it has always felt the kind of place my son might enjoy a lot when he grows up. The school has their own stables, and a swimming hall, and the village around the school is very accepting to different people. The fee is 500 euros a month, including studies and boarding. I'd happily dig into my stash for something like that, but it means I need to have a stash to begin with!

My ERE plan is save money now, when I can work full-time, so I could draw money from the stash for life quality costs if my ability to earn money becomes compromised later due to carer duties. ERE money is not meant for daily living costs, but for things I really, really want to have/give, I'm unable to finance otherwise and which would make a great difference. I'm not going to pay for anyone's wedding, or guarantee a loan since I firmly think the kids should save towards their own goals, so 200 000 is likely more than enough. If nothing like that school idea comes up, or I can pay the costs from regular income, I'll just sit on my savings and let them grow. I think it is the most likely scenario. I'll probably end up with a million when I reach the official retirement age of 68. Considering I'm not going to stop investing the extra money after I reach my goal, it might happen sooner.

Jason
Posts: 241
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2017 8:37 am

Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Jason » Sat Jul 08, 2017 4:03 pm

Good luck on getting to your Finnish line.

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