Money Mongoose

From dreams to diapers: what happened?

About two years ago, I had enough. Work was stressful, I’d split up with my girlfriend and I needed a break. Then I had a sudden realisation that I could just leave. I had no dependants, and was financially able to up and leave for a few years to re-charge. I toyed with the idea of moving to Shenzhen. I wanted to experience living in what was probably the fastest growing/changing city in history and observe the technology revolution while learning electronics.

What happened?

A new girlfriend and a new firstborn child.

Dreams of chilling out for a few years to follow interests and passions have been replaced by sleep deprivation, dirty diapers and figuring out how to provide for my new family.

I’m not sure what kind of mind control babies have that manage to neutralize all the negatives with a smile and laugh, but obviously its working.

Another thing I realised was lack of stability. I moved from the UK to Switzerland. While this was great from a professional and FIRE perspective I realize that, especially with Brexit, the right to live here is put into question, and therefore the foundation upon which the rest of my life is built is under question. This constant uncertainty lies in the background and makes it hard to plan with confidence. As a single person, I didn’t care, worst case, I would move back to the UK or a third country. With kids, partner and school/language considerations, options are limited.

Currently, I’m adrift. Disoriented from the rapidly changed circumstances, but also too exhausted and befuddled to chart a new course. In the distance, I see the shores of Christmas holidays and perhaps a chance to recharge, review and plan ahead.


The last few weeks have been exhausting. Work projects have multiplied and gone into overdrive, and at the same time, the baby has regressed his sleeping to waking up every 1-3 hours leaving everyone tired and grumpy.

In the background, my stock portfolio has tanked further. I have mostly been ignoring it due to personal exhaustion but also the exhaustion of my funds: there is no spare money to take advantage of any dip.

The more I think of stock market investing, the more parallels I see with no limit hold’em poker. In this case, I had planned to change my asset allocation to increase the cash component (which is technically negative). However, I did not manage to do this before the recent stock market crash. As in poker, making a bad decision early in the hand leads to difficult decisions later on in the hand.

In my case, I can either push through with the asset allocation change which would mean selling at the current market lows – which is unattractive – or waiting out for a better time to re-balance and committing the sin of trying to time the market and sitting with a sub-optimal asset allocation for longer.

For now, my default position is to do nothing and then start re-balancing next year when income starts to roll in again by putting half the income into investments and half to cash and then re-balancing this way gradually over several years.

Stock market crash

As I took my holidays on an Italian lake, I spent a lot of time hiking, kayaking and swimming. I had little time for keeping up with the news and investments except for a brief minute some days just before bedtime to check on my portfolio.

When I looked the first night, it was down $20k for the day. Another day it was down $15k. Then down $50k. Yikes!

Maybe it was the holiday mood, or the exhaustion from holidaying with young children, but it didn’t affect my mood at all and I wasn’t concerned about this thinking it will be something that I look into when I get home.

All in all, I lost >$100k in that single week! :O Normally, I would find it a great opportunity to buy more stocks, but all my cash is already invested not just now but incoming cash for the rest of the year is already earmarked for other expenditure.

I surprised myself how calm and philosophical I was about this, but do wonder how calm I would remain if the fall continues further and further. As primarily a growth stock investor, my portfolio has been hit particularly hard and a significant exposure to Chinese stocks added further pain.

Right now, my plan is to stay the course. How badly was your portfolio hit and what do you plan to do about it?

Supermicro hack leads to 30%+ gains

If you follow my Instagram account, you would have seen my post here regarding the 40% drop in Supermicro:


I use Instagram to make quick posts when I don’t have much time, but now I can go more into details on my thoughts on this position.

Why I thought the Bloomberg story was bogus

I thought the story by Bloomberg was bogus for a number of reasons, including:

  • The described hardware attack method just didn’t make sense when other better methods were available
  • All affected companies categorically deny the claims
  • There was no evidence presented by Bloomberg at all. Not even a named source

It seemed like a case of bad journalism of possibly even a planted story in the context of the trade dispute with China.

Possibility of profit?

My expectation was that the story was not true, so could I buy the shares in anticipation that the story would be proven false and that the share price would recover? There were still risks:

  • I could be wrong and the story could be true
  • Even if the story is not true, it might not be conclusively rebutted and doubts remain
  • Even if the story was proven to be false, the story might still have an impact as if it were true

On the balance of probabilities, I thought it was worth the risk to buy shares in SuperMicro. However, the position I was willing to take was small. Even without the Bloomberg story, the company has a number of issues including ones which led to suspension of trading on the NASDAQ.

Why Suze Orman hates FIRE

Always good to hear an opposing viewpoint:

High frequency trading and electronic front-running

While I know of HFT and electronic front-running, this is a very interesting telling of the story from an institutional trader encountering this problem and his attempts to solve it.

Jeff Bezos: the stock is not the company

An important reminder from Jeff Bezos that the stock price of the company doesn’t necessarily reflect the underlying strength of the business:

Qualcomm server chip killed by takeover fears and short term demands

Interesting article that shows how take-over threats and quarterly demands of Wall Street can kill off long term investment.

My biggest concern in relation to investment into Intel was competition from ARM-based server chips. While these are still not able to threaten the high performance end, there are a whole class of workloads which could be more efficiently and cheaply performed by high core count, low per usage chips.

With Qualcomm dropping out of the race, x86 remains the only game in town in the near term.

Buy cheap, buy thrice!

As I grow older, I appear to have grown increasingly frugal. Whereas I once wouldn’t think twice about spending >£100 on meal, or thousands on a holiday, those days are gone.

While an ex-girlfriend might claim this is because I’m a stingy-old git (and there may be some truth to that!) the main reason is that I increasingly do not see the value in a lot of things – or at least don’t see that the value is justified by the price.

While some people like to spend extra to buy quality items that last a lifetime, I like to buy cheap crap from China via Aliexpress. There’s an adage: “Buy cheap, buy twice” meaning that when you buy cheaply, you’ll waste money and end up buying again (next time the quality stuff!). However, I’ve taken this adage, gone a step further and made it a personal motto to live by: “Buy cheap! Buy Thrice!”.

I do this not necessarily as a money saving exercise, but as a learning exercise. When I buy something, I buy the cheapest thing that will suffice. Maybe the tool is good enough for the job and I use it infrequently enough that I don’t think further about it.

But if the tool is inadequate, then I learn what are the short-comings of the tool, maybe learn to work around it and then perhaps get frustrated enough to buy something better. I might iterate this process a few times, so that in the end, I could spend more than if I had ‘bought once’, but for me, the learning process is worth it as I’m learning the qualities and features of the tools that allow me to shop for quality in the future, rather than just shopping based on a brand name.

August 2018 savings rate review

Why review now?

I typically don’t review my savings rate as I optimised my spending a while ago and now I hardly spend any money at all. It’s not that I’m depriving myself, it’s simply that my hobbies and lifestyle are either cheap or free.

Major recent changes have been:

Moving in with my girlfriend: this cut our rent and utility costs drastically. It also created some savings in food costs. We previously both cooked, but now we food shop together and as my girlfriend shops in France (whereas I shopped in Switzerland) this in itself cut my food bill by more than 50%. Sadly, living further out means I no longer cook lunch at home, this offsets the food savings above.

Birth of our child: Counter-intuitively, this has not led to a substantial increase in costs – yet – but this will change when the baby gets older. Currently, I spend more due to baby supplies, but conversely I save as now I have less free time to go out and spend money! I used to eat out at least once a week and this has reduced drastically due to the deterrent of additional logistics of eating out with a baby.

The baby also has meant that I saved money on alcohol! I’m more or less teetotal now. I already started to drink less, but now that sleep is in short supply with the baby around, I try to avoid damaging what little sleep I have by drinking alcohol!

This temporary reduction in spending will stop once the baby goes into daycare as that will be eye-wateringly expensive. Also costs will increase if we move to a larger property to have more space for the baby.


Expense category Percentage of net salary
Mortgage payments 10%
Rent and utilities 7%
Food and baby shopping 4%
Insurance 2%
Sport and leisure 2%
Transport and other 2%
Total 28%

Current position

As you can see, costs are pretty low. My hobbies are running, cycling and swimming and they are all free. Swimming is free when I swim in the lakes and rivers, but I also pay for an indoor pool in winter. This may change if I decide to take up swimming in the river during winter too.

Possible savings

My mobile costs are 30 CHF per month due to finding a good deal a while ago and sticking to it. I could save more by going to PAYG as I typically use my phone very little where I don’t already have WIFI. The savings are probalby not worthwhile for me.

I may also get rid of my internet subscription at home. Cablecom have been quite unreliable and I could save >70 CHF per month by using my mobile phone as a modem.

I could probably cancel my SBB half-card. I used to travel mainly by bike and train, but now with the baby, car is the main mode of transport if we go somewhere further than biking allows.

Final count

So my savings rate is 72%. It’s high and achievable due to high salaries in Switzerland coupled with a frugal lifestyle and exploiting cross-border shopping opportunities. While further savings are possible, it is not a focus for me and has not been for a while as once you have a frugal mindset and you have optimised your costs in a set-it-and-forget-it way, the focus should switch to increasing your income which should yield far greater returns.