Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Joy of Gardening

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A garden with a view
One key aspect of our downshifting plan has always been to have a nice garden. A garden is hard work, right? It is a pleasure to look at after hours of toil. How do full time workers have the time to invest in it though?

On this note it is sad to see so many gardens being made "Low maintenance". Grass replaced with stones, borders are covered in that horrible black plastic to prevent the weeds from growing. As for growing your own veg. Forget it, too much work, and the supermarket is around the corner.

Where is the joy in any of that - changing gardens into a sterilised form of the office?



Our piece of happiness.

Fruit trees in blossom and vines waking up from the winter
We are currently renting our house but still take care in the garden. It is huge 4000m2 in comparison to our London pebble garden of 20m2.

We have lots of fruit trees ranging from fig, cherry, apple, plum and apricot. They are now in full bloom and a joy to look at

Our Kids Happiness

Good weather - check, space - check, outdoor activities - check, kids demanding to go outside and play - check.

In London our kids really enjoyed the park and playing in pebble garden. Thinking back on this they did ask to go regularly. Some days the weather was bad, usually cold or they would just point to the idiot box in the corner of the room (it did not make it to France).

Now they demand to be outside all the time and love it! They play for hours digging, biking, looking after a frog or lizard, picking flowers and making meals out of mud and grass.

A pirate ship was made all on their own out of some old crates, a plank and a flag created out of a construction sign showing risk of death!

Sticks Daddy, Me help Daddy!
They even help out with the chores such as collecting and stacking sticks

We feel they are happier, free to roam without anxious parents worried by traffic or child nappers! They play together and on their own. No adult input needed - bliss.







Growing our own food

Barron and soon to come to life veg patch
We have been planting seeds in our little greenhouse with our kids. Hours of messy play and learning. They had a great time.

We have been working our vegetable patch, planting potatoes and onions. Hard work to dig over but hopefully worth the wait.

Back to the Land

We come from and live in nature. It has chaotic splendor, dramatic weather, songbirds and delicous fruits.

We feel happy and content away from it all smelling the sweet air and feeling the radiance of the sun on our skin. What better way to experience this than in the garden. Learning where our food comes from, watching the dazzling display of the trees and flowers.

Everyone should have access to a garden and the time to connect to and embrace it. Perhaps if we all grew some of our own food at the same time we would be happier for it whilst saving money and the environment!

Peace, prosperity, happiness and gardening

CoNTeNDeR

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Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Financial Independence through Dividend Value Stock Investing

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#FinancialIndependence requires setting up multiple income streams to replace your income from your labour.

#Downshifting may mean that you still work but rely on a smaller income from some work and possibly some investments.

Today the focus is on dividend value stock investing to provide a passive income.

Buying shares in a company has several advantages

1. You have access to many companies in many different businesses
2. Companies can grow their earnings and dividends rapidly
3. Companies can be out of favour and cheap to buy
4. Companies are strictly regulated and lots of information is available about them
5. Companies can have a competitive advantage \ high barriers to entry
"One of the biggest mistakes investors make
is to focus on stock picking for capital gains.

The reality is that if you're not looking at
dividends when you buy a company... you're
likely not going to make much AT ALL.

Did you know that without dividends, stocks
have actually UNDERPERFORMED bonds
for the last 113 years?

This is not hype, a study by the London Business
School found that without dividends, stocks return
a measly 1.9% per year... LESS than Treasuries!"

Gains,
Pains and Capital
To help identify companies that are of interest to invest in  I have been spending some time massively improving the stock screening tool  to find some cheap #dividend stocks out there. Here is a look at the new screen (The UK all share list as of the 6th April is available towards the end of the post):

Sample from a stock screener created with 10 years worth of data
It has been made very visual with its colour coded formatting. 10 years worth of financial data is used for graphs and calculations. More of the major indices have been added. It has been made easier to use. Easy to personalise with your own portfolio of stocks. Backed by a large powerful data set and statistical data analysis.
  • Contains major market data (US, UK, EU)
  • Current data can be evaluated on the fly for the Value Screener and Dividend Value Screener by clicking the magic button
  • Stocks can be interrogated individually with 10 years worth of data in the graphical evaluation tool
  • 10 years of financial performance is used to create the 10yr Value Dividend Screener to check the quality of the stock - has it made a regular growing profit and paid a regular increasing dividend?
  • "My Portfolio" can be setup to show the screener results for your stocks

Markets no longer perform true market functions. In markets today, the dead hands of the academic and the rentier have replaced the invisible hand
of the merchant or the entrepreneur.

James Rickards 
Why Look at History

The Value Stock Screener and Dividend Value Stock Screener allow the user to click a magic button to download the latest data from the web. The tool then allows individual stock evaluation. The screen looks for undervalued stocks based on the methodology of "The Little Book That Beats the Market".

1. Stocks with a very high Return on Capital - are they a well run business?
2. Stocks with  high earnings yield (i.e low PE) are they currently cheap

Why a spreadsheet - there are loads of options on the web? So why use this tool instead of one of the numerous screeners out there? Well in my opinion spreadsheets are more personal with the data, you can add your own comments and keep them for reference. Websites have flexibility in the type of graphs and how the data is shown on the screen. 

This is great at looking at THE.PReSeNT but this is not the full picture. The stock may be cheap for a very good reason and can get cheaper.

In order to avoid this trap further research is required. 

One part of the research is looking at THE.PaST and secondly can we be confident about THE.FuTuRe performance? How good is the stock really? Is the company solid, has solid earnings growth and good dividend cover? This needed to be added.

Introducing 10 Year Dividend Value Screening

Dividend champion investing is not new and numerous lists of stocks that have consistent dividend growth can be found across the web. What is more difficult to attain is weather you are paying too much for a champion share?

We need to gain in capital and dividends overtime. That way buying lowly valued stocks that become expensive can be sold and re-invested to gain MORE income.


The new screener has the ability to analyse 10 years worth of financial data for selected Markets (NASDAQ, NYSE, DJIA FTSE 100, FTSE 250, DAX, EURSTOX50).

 Its purpose is to ask the following questions:
  1. Is the current PE ratio expensive for the share in comparison to its historical PE10 (10 year average PE
         PE10 = 10 year average share price / 10 years average EPS
  2. Is the company growing its EPS (Earnings per share) consistently?
         What is the average EPS growth rate over 10 years?
         How many years has the company made a profit?
  3. Is the company growing its dividend?
        What is the average dividend growth rate over 10 years?
        How many years has a dividend been paid?
  4. How much debt does the company currently have?
  5. What overall score is the company on Quality, Income and Value? 
All of this information is used to create a score and rank versus other companies.
    10yr Data Screen Benefits

    The screen can be looked at stand alone via Google spreadsheets however the excel spreadsheet has some distinct advantages
    1. Enter your portfolio and watch stocks to see what the screen results are. Here is a screen shot with some well known companies:
      A manually entered portfolio showing 10YR data quality results and current value result
    2. Query the data by bringing up a graphical interface. Here is a screenshot of Proctor and Gamble:
    3. Record reasons for investing in the stock in the spreadsheet for future use
    Please read on for the 10 Yr Data Screen for the United Kingdoms FTSE All Share index (Yahoo! ^FTAS):

    Saturday, 29 March 2014

    Finally There (Guest post)

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    The Pyrénées, "un réservoir de beauté", by Pierre-Paul Feyte
    Mrs C's New Life

    This evening whilst I was sawing some wood for our evening fire and at the same time looking at the sunset on the French Pyrenees, it suddenly happened. This is it, my dream of a Good Life, finally there!

    The majestic mountains, all pink and blue in the sunset, the cold crisp evening air after a beautiful warm spring day. It was not much really, just chopping a big oak branch we cut off a tree a few days ago that needed to be cut into smaller chunks to fit in the fire place.  

    But that was it, with hands firmly gripping the oak branch, all covered in lichen and a beautiful bottle green and grey colour, I was finally closer to Nature – far closer than I had ever been in the last 20? 25 years?

    Tonight, when I was closing the shutters of my kids’ bedrooms and putting them to bed, I saw our French friend Paul-Alexandre, who is a very busy corporate executive, come and pick up his 12-month old child from the child-minder at 7 pm. It made me realise that I could not live that busy corporate life anymore. I am not saying any more ever never never, but right now, this is not for me.

    No more power suits from lovely Italian labels that make a lovely thin waist and a terrible dent in the wallet and Harvey Nicks newsletter with more lovely dresses to get. Just a cotton skirt or a pair of dark blue jeans. No more high heels (and the back pain that goes with it) and no more carrying a so-called book bag to hide a pair of sports shoes for when running from meeting to meeting becomes impossible to manage in Louboutins. Just a really comfortable pair of dark green Hunters bought years ago when still dreaming the dream.

    No more macho bosses, even the female bosses are macho in the City. Just lovely neighbours who invite us to parties and to watch the 6 nations at home or share home-made cakes and biscuits. No more tossing and turning every night whilst worrying about work where I had to negotiate 300-page long commercial contracts and be an impossibly hard negotiator (the Iron Lady was the lovely nickname clients gave me).

    Just getting enough sleep so that we can go for a walk to town (6 km back and return), take the girls swimming and spend 2 hours gardening without feeling tired.

    I could go on and on with the list of “no more's” and “just's”. Now I am appreciating those long years of effort, saving every penny and planning every step we made.

    Thinking, Planning, Money.....

    The effort of our monthly financial reviews and planning have finally paid off....even if at the time I had to be dragged screaming to each financial review for our little tribe. I found that these reviews could sap what was left of my limited post work energy and.....

    It is true that I have never enjoyed talking or even thinking about money, other than seeing is as a both a way to control people and a mean to travel to far away places. Two sides of the same coin, if you excuse the pun, which interested me but I never wanted to spend more time arranging my finances than was strictly necessary.

    I was a passive saver and stayed away from debt. Also I have always liked to manage my pension funds and investments by choosing funds and monitoring their performance myself. But that’s just because I have always seen myself as a feminist and never wanted to have to rely on a man for financial support. Hence I wanted to do “all” by myself, studies, career, travelling, and investing my savings. It is also down to not wanting any man to control my destiny, whether a boyfriend or a financial advisor.

    Changing to an Early Financial Independence Mindset

    I was set on the normal path, work util retirement in my 60's. I was happy with the returns on my savings and investments were generating. I could leave them on autopilot until later in life. I was a “don’t touch if not broken” type of woman.But I was seeking a "way-out" out of the rat race, feeling it was not going to make me happy and that the sacrifices required to obtain the top managerial role would not be worth the results.

    But change we did as a couple when we started putting our heads together to look at our finances. After all these years of planning for financial independence and creative freedom for our family these efforts are paying off. I did resent the monthly financial reviews a bit Mr C says "a lot") but they were to be done. How could we get to our dream if we sleep-walked all our life and not got our house in order?

    And here we are in the south west of France! We work in our vegetable patch together every sunny day (i.e. almost every day). The girls are playing in the field full of daisies (paquerettes) and we all go for cycle rides on paths with views over the Pyrenees mountains.

    Mrs C

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    Monday, 24 February 2014

    10 Reasons Why Financial Independence is Good for Society

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    Are financially independet people good for society
    A Road to Freedom
    Our little TRiBe is trying out the financially independent, idle life in France. Here are a couple of background posts: in  Happiness in France : finally landed in France and plan for the next 4 years & in French Living – Quelle Difference? : this was a look at our expenditure in France compared to the UK.

    In this post here is a reflection on our current arrangement of living off investments and savings. We are now business owners instead of the wage slaves and 10 reasons why this is a GOOD thing.

    Wage Slave Exploitation

    We were wage slaves to big business. We were the ones being exploited....

    THE.PaST: "Hold on there you were were doing it willingly and being paid for it right?"

    Willingly not so sure on that one and were we paid enough. Admittedly that is a matter of opinion. WILLING SLAVE BOOK? What can be said about it was that the companies that we worked for made large profits off our backs. Fine when you are the owner of the business receiving part of the profit (most likely through dividends) but what if the company is not listed and you are not a managing partner or the private equity firm.

    Sure wage slave is a harsh word it was not real slavery was it, chained to the desk and all that. Let's consider that further. We there are other ways of chaining on to his/her desk. Check out the book Willing Slaves: How the Overwork Culture is Ruling Our Lives on this topic.

    We really had to do exactly as we were told, do what the boss wanted and make him/her look good. We had to follow the company line and bend over backwards when needed or else there is the door! OR We are not making enough profits so there is the door anyway. The sword of Damocles was there and you sure knew about it.

    We were brought up to believe work is good for us. Sure there is some truth in it (a little). It can provide an identity - what do you do (engineer loafer!). It gives you a purpose (damn alarm clock). You get to learn new stuff (invoice processing, making toilet holders) and meet new people in places you would normally not go (or want to go).

    In the West we dedicate a large part of our prime years to work. To make matters worse we start work really late after getting the pass to work - University Debt. All of those years that could have been spent actually doing something productive and being paid for it - gaining financial independence could be so much earlier.

    I digress - back to the point, we allow ourselves to be exploited as a wage slaves to a business and we have been brainwashed into thinking it should be this way until retirement age at 70.  Now let's flip this on its head and become the business owners.

    Sunday, 23 February 2014

    56 Ways to Be Free, Financially Independent and Happy

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    Live free from debt
    Have fun with the kids
    Climb trees
    Dig the garden
    Own the house outright
    Cancel the contracts
     Consolidate the insurance
    Freecycle
    Play with the cat
    Walk in the hills
    Make cakes
    Cut up the credit card
    Bin the TV
    Avoid plastic junk
    Setup direct payments
    Listen to music
    Spend less than you earn
    Burn something
    Drink some wine and dance
    Delete online shopping accounts
    Shop local
    Stand away from the herd and observe
    Grow some veg
    Start your own business
    Walk and cycle
    Mend your clothes
    Invest
    Cuddle and kiss
    Delete email subscription spam
    Put the kids in the garden
    Vote for the outsider
    Have a party
    Know your neighbors
    Delete social media
    Do you really need to buy it?
    Read a book
    Cook fresh food
    Install an internet ad blocker
    Sit in the dark
    Doodle on a piece of paper
    Turn everything off at night
    Get a job you actually like
    Wear weird clothes
    Resign
    Keep calm and opt out
    Be free from the State
    Stay away from the mainstream media
    Be naked
    Why being Angry?
    Get lost in the countryside
    Laugh out loud in public
    Is it really that bad - frame it
    Enjoy today, plan for tomorrow
    Exercise naturally ;)

    #FinancialIndependence
    Seek #Happiness
    FISH!

    Peace, prosperity and happiness

    THE.CONTENDER

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    Tuesday, 11 February 2014

    The Optimist, Realist and Pessimist

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    Once upon a time there was an OPTiMiST he went about his day with a smile on his face and the wind in his back. He was off to see his friend the PeSSiMiST

    Mr PeSSiMiST was having his usual grumble about his day and life in general, why doesn't anything work and I am stuck with this life? Just listen to the news a meteor is going to hit the earth any time now Doomed, Doomed I say!

    Naturally Mr OPTiMiST shrugged his shoulders (whatever next he thought) - and moved onto his joke of the day to cheer up the poor old chap unfortunately to no avail.

    Then along came Mr ReaLiST he was going about his business, walking past the local lottery machine shaking his head on his way to deposit some savings at the bank...Hi guys see you in the pub after work for a beer.

    Who are We?

    We can all probably place ourselves in each of these classifications depending on our circumstances and mood.

    Perhaps whole countries could be generalized in one of the classifications - in the UK we always complain about the weather and always look at the other side of the coin. Not everything is rosy but it ain't bad. So we are probably more of a plan for tomorrow realist bunch.... Whenever I have worked in America I consider them as optimistic go-getters, very driven and optimistic about almost everything. These are generalisations for sure and completely off the mark depending on your point of view.

    Exploiting the moment

    These traits can be the financial independence worst adversary or even weakness. The world is setup to prey on these traits so that you squander your money.

    The optimistic young adult starting out in the real world looking for an identity is quickly lured into the world of Sex. You must buy this brand of clothes, listen to this music drive that car. While you are at it buy this perfume / deodorant it is all you need to have scantly clad members of the opposite sex running after you. Feeling more optimistic about your chances?

    On the flip side we have the DOOMERS! BEWARE THE DOOMERS! The end of the world is neigh, load up on food, guns and ammo - you can't eat it but you can use it and trade it. A trade in death - nice..... Hunker down, save cash under their pillow don't speculate don't get rich.

    What about those weird realists - stuck in the middle - middle class? A nerd - you must have this games console, this most awesome powerful PC. A striver - buy these books to make you rich attend this course and buy these stocks. Save for your pension work hard until you retire at 70. Spend the rest and get the biggest mortgage possible. Bahh Humbug!

    Now after recognising some of the weakness and what does the #financialindependence #downshifter do?