Internationalist

Where are you and where are you going?
Solvent
Posts: 172
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:04 pm
Location: ኢትዮጵያ
Contact:

Re: Internationalist

Post by Solvent » Fri Dec 15, 2017 2:32 am

@Viktor K

I played a woodwind instrument for many years as a child. Being more interested in alt rock, I taught myself some guitar and bass guitar, playing both those in a few bands in high school. On leaving high school I decided to study music at university and got into a jazz performance stream for a Bachelor of Music (woodwind, not guitar or bass, I’m still not a good guitarist). Nearly completed it actually, but I just grew to dislike playing and didn’t have the desire to spend enough hours practicing to become a professional performer. Lots of competition, hard work, low pay. Still, I was great at music theory and I remember quite a lot of what I learnt in that domain.
Since there are very few degree courses in weird/experimental/rock music, those people who were interested in those genres seem to end up studying in the jazz stream (as opposed to classical streams). Therefore at uni I was exposed to a lot of great people creating weird and wonderful experimental music.

So I have a pretty solid base of jazz theory gained from higher education that I can tap into to write music. The kind of music I like to listen to is often kind of repetitive, experimental stuff with a lot of guitar distortion and effects, and I try to write material in a similar vein.

Solvent
Posts: 172
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:04 pm
Location: ኢትዮጵያ
Contact:

Re: Internationalist

Post by Solvent » Thu Jan 18, 2018 12:49 am

Savings rate for December: 37.1%.

Books read: Confederacy of Dunces (Toole, definitely a funny book. Described in the blurb as laugh-out-loud funny, but I wouldn’t say that, for me I just really liked the cleverness of it and the absurdity of its protagonist), The Honorary Consul (Greene, ending a bit unsatisfying, but otherwise I really liked this one – struck me as a bit of a male fantasy book though, with lack of meaningful female characters and its preoccupation with whoring, mistresses, and ‘possessing’ women).

“It took him more than a few years of life in Buenos Aires before he began to realize that the existence of an exile did not make for simplicity – so many documents, so many visits to government offices. Simplicity belonged by right to those who were native-born, those who could take the conditions of life, however bizarre, for granted.”

I was in Dakar for a week, working. One of the benefits of work travel is the per diem, of which I managed to save a considerable amount.

We managed to keep spending largely in check for the month, until the final week. I won’t go into it here, but let’s just say some of our money will help someone out and will probably return to us medium term. Looks likely that DW will be returning to work, although the pay will be low and there will be some startup costs (visas). I made a neat little profit (realized profit, not hypothetical value profit) by making a good judgement on bitcoin, but that effectively just paid for the Christmas presents I ordered to be delivered to family back home.

One of the things that is perhaps good and bad about being an expat is the experience of the holiday season. It tends not to be stressful, there’s no build-up, there’s no expectation, at least here in Ethiopia I’m not bombarded with advertising. At the same time, though, spending Christmas with family is nice, so missing out on that is a downer. It’s easy to let Christmas turn into just another day – regular breakfast, lunch and dinner, wash dishes, read a book. I think this is not a good development – it’s nice to have rituals and festivals to give shape to the year, even as an atheist I recognize this.

I’m currently trialing fasting. I decided that for two days a week I will fast until the evening meal (the 5:2 kind of idea). During the fasting days, I haven’t been eating nothing, but restricted myself to say, some olives, a boiled egg, maybe a small piece of cheese. I have been surprised by how little the sensation of ‘hunger’ appears (that is, a growly stomach). Still, for the first four days of fasting I did feel pretty weird. Most noticeable was a slight feeling of clumsiness in my extremities – not severe, but a bit of an odd feeling. I also feel like maybe I had more difficulty concentrating, but my work is not particularly engaging, so when I’m fasting at work it’s difficult to say if I’m really concentrating less effectively than usual… Anyway, I seem to be mostly getting over these negative effects now, I think, but I’ll continue to evaluate the plan. Why fast? Well, I don’t need to lose weight, if anything I would like to regain some of the muscle I once had (yeah right, when TH settles down enough for me to consider an exercise plan again). It’s just something I figured I’d try after I’ve read numerous people advocating it – a ‘go with the crowd’ kind of thing. The warrior diet is in the ERE book, after all.

Net worth has been rising rapidly for the last few months. Part of this must be illusory though – when we moved into our current place we paid six months’ rent in advance. Absent rental payments, much of the paycheck has been socked into savings. I need to make another payment this month, although it’ll now be three months’ in advance. So absent market moves, NW will likely not increase in January. With my new and improved wealth-tracking spreadsheet, in a few months’ time I might be able to tack some pretty graphs into this journal.

Meanwhile, in Australia: https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... ol-sandpit

Solvent
Posts: 172
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:04 pm
Location: ኢትዮጵያ
Contact:

Re: Internationalist

Post by Solvent » Fri Feb 09, 2018 1:53 am

Savings rate for January: 42.6%.

Major events this month were a trip to Zanzibar. This served dual purposes – as holiday, and also for the change in visa status of DW so that she can work. It wasn’t a cheap holiday, but it was nice. DW needed to at least fly out of the country and back, so the additional cost to turn it into a vacation was nothing to lose sleep over. Being by the beach and eating some fresh seafood was nice.

Actually, being there seemed to clear up my throat a bit. The pollution and dust here is really getting to me, I feel like I’ve been struggling with a sore and phlegmy throat for a few months now. Now that DW is on a work contract, though, I doubt there will be any travel abroad, unless I have a work event, for the next six months or so.

Assuming DW gets paid on time, hopefully the savings rate can be boosted 6% or so for the next few months. Yeah, the pay is terrible but after a substantial career break it’s all about getting back into the workforce.

After seven months in this country I finally feel as though we’re pretty much through with the ‘setting up’ expenditures, so hopefully next month I can post a more impressive savings rate. That said, February is one of the two leanest dividend months for the year for my holdings, but I still don’t think that’ll affect anything much. My net worth (not including retirement accounts) did actually decay a little, having to pay three months’ rent in advance. Another significant factor is also that I track my NW in AUD – since the AUD has risen remarkably against the USD at the start of this year, my totals look worse overall (my international investments all went down in AUD terms).

I’ve been thinking about a few ERE, FI-type things this month, complicated issues I won’t discuss at length right now. The first is franking credits. Being abroad, I don’t get the advantage of these, and it’s something I’ve not considered in my analysis of the required amount invested in order to produce a retirement income in Australia. Basically, with franking credits (dividend imputation), my FI number (for an Australian retirement) should be lower than I have been considering to date, because of the significant tax advantages.

The second is tradable versus non-tradable inflation (https://www.rba.gov.au/chart-pack/aus-inflation.html). Sure, headline inflation has been low for some time in Aus – it looks like around 2% at the moment. But when you decompose this into tradables vs non-tradables it tells a more detailed story. Basically, tradables have been deflating considerably but non-tradables have experienced an inflation rate worthy of consideration. This makes me wonder – as an EREer, does one typically consume more goods that are tradable, or more non-tradable? I’d be inclined to say non-tradables…* Meaning inflation is a more serious concern.

*Basically, tradables are those things that go out to and come in from the world market, and as such prices are set in a fairly global manner. Non-tradables are things that are domestic in nature, perhaps think of many aspects of healthcare, housing, etc. A big story of the past perhaps twenty years is that electronics and technological things have been massively dropping in price for a variety of reasons. These are all tradables. But as an EREer, I think many of these things would make up only a little of your consumption basket.

Meanwhile, in Australia: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-n ... tures-rise

Solvent
Posts: 172
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:04 pm
Location: ኢትዮጵያ
Contact:

Re: Internationalist

Post by Solvent » Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:00 am

February Update

Savings rate for February: 57.2%.

First time since arriving in Addis that my savings rate has breached the 50% barrier! Awesome! Payments started rolling in from DW’s contract, so that contributes to the push. I hope that in the next four months, in which I don’t foresee any major expenditures, I can continue to stay above the 50% mark.

Books read: Adapt (Harford – very readable. I like Harford as a journalist. This book is not amazing, but certainly interesting throughout and gave me recommendations for more books to add to my reading list), Metamorphosis (Kafka).

I have decided to be less strict with myself on bringing packed lunch to work. Dining costs here are so cheap that I’ve begun to resent the extra effort of grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning up on the weekends. I’ve still wound up bringing leftovers for about three days of the week, but the other two I can eat at work for around $2-3 per lunch. Now that DW and I are both working, it’s more important for us to spend more time with TH on weekends rather than cooking up the week’s lunches. So we just try to increase weeknight cooking slightly more to ensure there are some leftovers around. We’re bumping up against the constraint of pot size now, so I think we may shop for a bigger soup pot.

Pretty calm month, no extraordinary expenditures. The jumps up and down in the market didn’t faze me too much, which was reassuring – but equities seem to have returned to their upward progress. This has been a long bull market, for sure, and I’m starting to wonder how long it can possibly continue. Whenever I daydream and project out what my net worth could be in two, three, or five years, I need to remind myself that we’re probably ‘due’ for a pretty significant correction, and perhaps a few years of negative returns, soonish.

I’ve just calculated my rolling 6-month average monthly passive income for the first time – this is solely dividends and interest payments: $691. Hey, this is not money I can live on just yet* but it’s certainly a noticeable chunk each month. Nice!

Meanwhile, in Australia: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/sout ... 59839cf864


*Although, annually, that is about 1 jacob, isn’t it?

Solvent
Posts: 172
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:04 pm
Location: ኢትዮጵያ
Contact:

Re: Internationalist

Post by Solvent » Tue Apr 03, 2018 2:52 am

March Update

Savings rate for March: 58.3%.

That’s as high a savings rate as I can remember ever having. I foresee April being fairly high as well, maybe not quite as high. After that, I think I’ll be running into some more expenses, but the first half of this year has been good for savings.

I’d felt a little unwell through January and February, so I ceased fasting. I tried again in March. Generally, on Mondays and Thursdays I would fast for roughly 24 hours, from the evening meal of the previous night through to the evening meal on Monday/Thursday. I don’t think I will continue with it. I was feeling totally spacy, I really couldn’t concentrate well. I hoped the feeling would go away after several fasts as my body adapted but it didn’t seem to improve.

I haven’t previously discussed my asset allocation in my journal. I haven’t commented in any other threads on this topic because I feel pretty comfortable with it myself, and I’m not necessarily looking for advice. Nevertheless, in case anyone is curious, or in case anyone wants to comment on it, I will present it now.

Target allocation:

75% equities, of which:
- 35% Australian equities (25% in a LIC, broad market, and 10% in Vanguard ASX300 index fund)
- 10% in international ex-USA (Vanguard)
- 30% in US total market (Vanguard)
10% in bonds (Vanguard, Australian Bonds)
5% in gold (ETF, not physical)
10% in cash.

My current allocation is not quite in alignment with this, but it’s getting there over time. I currently have no gold – my next remittance of salary will probably go largely to buying into a gold fund. I currently am heavier on cash than this target allocation, and lighter on bonds. Also, while this target allocation has only 6 financial products (not including cash), my current allocation has a few more products/stocks. This is due to gradually building my position over time, and I didn’t necessarily start with a goal as clear as what I outline above. I will gradually rebalance. The international/commodity products are unhedged to the Australian dollar. Oh, and this doesn’t include my retirement account – rules around superannuation in Australia are very strict, and retirement money can’t be withdrawn until you’re at least 60 yrs old. I still pay attention to my retirement account, but I think treatment of this money is different enough to be considered separately, given the timeframes involved.

Taking into account the actual products I can access through my broker, this allocation has a weighted expense ratio of 0.12%.

Other ways of looking at this split:
75% growth, 25% defensive.
55% Australian (home country), 45% international.

Perhaps the one thing I feel like I might tweak, at the moment, is an allocation to emerging markets. I am wondering if the demographic headwinds facing developed markets mean I should place some funds in emerging markets. In the allocation above, the Vanguard international ex-USA product only includes developed markets. What holds be back is that while I think there’s definitely good arguments to be made about how Asia (not just China, but SE and S Asia) will be the more dynamic markets across the next 50 years there’s also plenty of arguments against. In terms of demographics, many Asian countries are also seeing the same decline in fertility rates that Western countries have seen, and in fact, before they’ve reached the same level of economic development.

Edit: I've been reading less news this past month so didn't stumble on any good 'meanwhile in Australia' bits until just now... so ninja edit: https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... -operation

Solvent
Posts: 172
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:04 pm
Location: ኢትዮጵያ
Contact:

Re: Internationalist

Post by Solvent » Tue May 08, 2018 6:14 am

Savings rate for April: 59.2%.

Continuing on with a strong savings rate. Still attributing it to DW being at work – this works from both ends: since she’s working we don’t do any travelling (reduces expenses) and of course it also earns income.

Books read: Island Home (Winton. Dreadful. How is it that this guy is held up as an icon of Australian literature? My wife laughed at my incredibly obvious eye-rolling and exasperated sighs as I read this book in bed. It was a gift! I didn’t buy it… Admittedly it got a little better at the end but the first few chapters – cringe-worthy is not strong enough. It’s remarkable that someone who has lived abroad (in Italy, France, Ireland and Greece according to Wiki) can still be so apparently dumb to the fact that many of the experiences of which he writes are actually common aspects of the human experience and not uniquely Australian).

I have had some very mild success with reducing social media use. I deleted the facebook app (I used a 3rd party app) from my phone, and now I only check fb about once a week or so when I have my laptop hooked up to a net connection. I have realized that I don’t at all miss the daily checks. When I check it on a weekly basis, I don’t think I miss anything – the algorithm seems good enough to pull whatever was relevant from the last week, and generally there’s nothing of note anyway. I also moved the Instagram app off my home screen. Again, now I only use Instagram maybe twice weekly rather than daily.

I call this only a very mild success because I have probably used that freed-up time to spend more time looking through Reddit. So… of all the time I was wasting unproductively before, I probably still waste 90%. Reddit tends to make me laugh more, though, so I guess there’s that?

In terms of net wealth, I am a bit disappointed that besides my high savings rate I still feel like my progress towards FI is only crawling along. In terms of ‘liquid’ net wealth I’m up to a multiple of 12.5 times estimated yearly expenses (that is, estimated expenses for a relatively low-cost Aus location, certainly not here…). Once retirement accounts are included, this bumps up to 17 years of expenses, which I guess is not so bad. I suppose despite hanging out here my savings rate is not usually quite at 50% plus, so really I should not get ahead of myself. If I can manage several years of 50% plus SR I would see more progress, rather than only several months’ worth…

Let's try to post some graphs for the first time...
Image
A pretty basic net wealth chart, showing asset classes. I've put years of expenditure on the y-axis here.

Image
This one shows expenditure categories. I've removed units from the y-axis to preserve at least a little mystery... But you know I'm probably orders of magnitude above most of the participants of this forum in terms of expenditure. What is particularly clear from this chart, I think, is the absurd cost of rent for my shitty house here, relative to the rest of my expenditure categories. The spike in green in November and January relates to travel expenses, hotels, flights etc.

Meanwhile, in Australia: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-n ... -junk-food

User avatar
Viktor K
Posts: 301
Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2016 9:45 pm
Location: China
Contact:

Re: Internationalist

Post by Viktor K » Tue May 08, 2018 10:10 am

Good job identifying and eliminating a major distractor for you. I did the same thing recently, and while things that used to not distract me do moreso now than before, the impact is much less significant.

Solvent
Posts: 172
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:04 pm
Location: ኢትዮጵያ
Contact:

Re: Internationalist

Post by Solvent » Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:57 am

Savings rate for May: 53.7%.

Books read: Antifragile (Taleb. Liked it. Still going to say it didn’t have the same effect on me as Black Swan, the first time around. Certainly found a number of things to disagree with in the book but hey, I like his style. Don’t we all wish we had the flair and courage to be able to insult whomever we wanted?)

Undertook two weeks in a row of work travel, which was tough. One week in Yaoundé followed by a week in Maputo, with a mere twelve-hour stop back in Addis to see DW in between. I think I owe DW something for being a single parent on that stretch. I certainly missed the Tiny Human a lot and felt guilty for leaving her dadless for so long. I know there are a ton of people out there with far rougher travel schedules than me (the higher-ups in my own organization being prime examples), but I’ve known for a long time I’m not cut out for that kind of work. I frequently get sick after travel – while I would say I kinda like work travel (that is, of course, depending on the frequency and duration), I still find it stressful. I haven’t mastered the knack of sleeping on planes. Frequently, two days after I arrive home I come down with some kind of malady probably as a result of the lack of sleep, intense work effort, and unfamiliar food eaten in tropical locales. Not sick yet, this time around, but we’ll see…

I had to spend some money on the car – four new tires and new brake pads. I guess the timing worked out OK in a way – I saved, as usual, a fair bit of the per diem from my travel so it actually pretty neatly offset the expenditure on car stuff. I was surprised I still managed a >50% SR this month due to the car expenditures but I seem to be on a roll.

Wanted to just note a few positive aspects of living in Addis Ababa, since I’ve probably not been as vocal on those as I have been on the negative parts. Firstly, I’m no longer supervised by a ridiculous micromanager who treats me like a juvenile. For all the problems my organization has, at least the team I work with here has a culture that is a little better than the one I left behind in Geneva. Secondly, the ease with which I found a social life here. In Geneva, it took more than eighteen months for me to find people I felt comfortable socializing with, and only very few people at that. Here, I was able to ‘lock in’ with people almost right away. I think greater than 50% of my weekends have social engagements now. This feels like a lot to me, but I guess it depends where your preferences and habits fall along that scale. I don’t really know what it is that makes socializing here so much easier. Maybe it’s easier to bond with other expats bitching about the manifold difficulties of living in Addis rather than just complaining about the ridiculous cost of living in Geneva?

Meanwhile, in Australia: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles ... -bank-boom

Solvent
Posts: 172
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:04 pm
Location: ኢትዮጵያ
Contact:

Re: Internationalist

Post by Solvent » Tue Jul 10, 2018 1:49 am

Savings rate for June: 6.9%.

Books read: Free Culture (Lessig. Really good, a little outdated now), Virtual Light (Gibson. I keep reading more of Gibson’s work because I love Neuromancer so much, but I’ve not really liked anything else he’s done. Virtual Light is better than Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive, but nevertheless I don’t feel like it was time well spent. I still have Idoru on my Kindle ready to go but if that doesn’t do something for me I feel I’ll give up on the rest of Gibson’s oeuvre, unless someone wants to try to convince me…).

I installed Habitica on my phone, a productivity app that uses RPG-like elements to motivate you. One more attempt to get a little closer to some of my goals. I like the way the app breaks out habits as distinct from daily tasks, as distinct from to-do items. So far it seems to function pretty well. We’ll see if I keep up the use of the app.

I took the family to Dubai for a weekend. Spent lots of money – nice hotel, and also purchased some items like new phones that are difficult to get here. DW and I had been using our old smartphones for 3.5 years, and they were not new models when we got them, so while I think I beat the average it’s still not exactly high-level ERE/Mustachian skills. Very pleasant trip, a bit of culture shock after being in Africa for the last year.

We had guests visit, as well. So a combination of the trip to Dubai, plus showing guests around, dining out, and increased food costs explain the low savings rate.

I repatriated some savings, and I made my first investment into gold – a financial instrument, not bullion. I believe this will decrease the correlation of the asset classes in my portfolio a little. I hope I’m decently hedged against a variety of calamities now, but I guess we’ll see. My entire investing career has pretty much been bull market (I should specify international market here – I’m home biased in Australia, and actually the ASX300 has not performed very well over the last decade, although it still counts as a bull market I suppose), so I have no idea what my brain will do to me once the bear eventually comes.

I’ve been doing this ‘meanwhile, in Australia’ thing, but there was recently a crazy animal story from Ethiopia I couldn’t resist, so This Month in Ethiopia: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/0 ... -ethiopia/

User avatar
Kriegsspiel
Posts: 591
Joined: Fri Aug 03, 2012 9:05 pm

Re: Internationalist

Post by Kriegsspiel » Tue Jul 10, 2018 7:48 am

I'm assuming no native-African religion involves spending a lot of time waist deep in crocodile habitat?

Solvent
Posts: 172
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:04 pm
Location: ኢትዮጵያ
Contact:

Re: Internationalist

Post by Solvent » Mon Sep 03, 2018 8:14 am

@Kriegsspiel - Ethiopians may be offended if you intimate that Christianity is not their native religion. It has the next-oldest state-sponsored Christian church after the Armenian.

2-for-1 update July and August

Savings rate for July: 50.3%, for August: 45.0%.

Books read: Haven’t completed any, but working through a few – and working is apt. I’ve not been making great choices in books recently, and reading is becoming a bit of a chore.

Back up over 50% saving rate for July, great! Net worth has really going nuts. The AUD has been declining, and since I’m earning in USD, and have a substantial all-world allocation, that’s translated in to outsize gains in NW. Every now and then I’m tempted to think the Aussie will continue to decline, the overvalued house market there will finally correct, and I’ll be able to saunter back in and pick up a nice house for cash… But you know all about markets and remaining irrational. I’m not really keen on owning housing in a country I’m not living in anyway, so it’s really just daydreaming. That said, if there could be a slow melt in house prices over the next two years… Well, that’d be grand.

I went to Uganda for a long weekend holiday. Probably a bad move. Things really didn’t go to plan, and we ended up hanging around Kampala rather than heading out into the West of the country as intended. Fortunately we weren’t in the city centre during the unrest, it apparently got pretty nasty. Travelling in this continent seems to require a lot of patience and energy, in addition to more money than you would expect. It’ll take a little while for the travel desire to build up again, I think.

I have been encouraged to rejoin the gym – a few friends are getting me guest passes at their (large) hotel gym pretty often, and I’ve decided to maintain the momentum of this by rejoining the cheap-as-chips work gym as well, so I don’t have to rely on getting an invitation multiple times per week.

Vacation to Australia coming up to reconnect with family, I’m pretty much counting down the days…

Meanwhile, in Australia: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-29/s ... ed/9924002 <- this chap was trying to be too frugal and inventive for his own good.

Post Reply