Long live Europe!

The castle of Kufstein, part of the European miracle.

The castle of Kufstein, part of the European miracle.

This weekend plus two days off from extra hours (who would ever opt for getting them paid out if he can have additional free time for it?!?), was good for a spontaneous four-day trip of the Woodpeckers clan to the Bavarian mountains.

Staying at a nice basic apartment close to lake Schliersee for about 40 EUR per night, we had a fantastic and not too unfrugal time.

Luck was with us, the first snow of the year fell plentiful only one day earlier, it was crisp cold and clear, sun was shining the whole time.
Thus nature abundantly granted us with all its beauty and free wonders. A nights walk through the snow, a hike up to a mountain hut with a 5 km sledge ride back, snow-ball fights, half a day in the local steam bath and all the other stuff you wouldn’t want to miss when being out with your kinds on a winter day.

However, as much as I could talk on and on about the fun and good feelings nature provides to our lives, this is not my topic today.

My topic today is Europe. Continue reading


Anyone fears a Crisis? Woodpecker not, and tell you why…

You'd better look at some beatiful landscape like this, instead of the news ticker these days...

You’d better look at some beautiful landscape like this, instead of the news ticker these days…(seen in NW Sicily, Italy)

For those of you that live in Europe, I don’t have to mention that the EURO-Crisis is creating more than a few waves these days. And to my knowledge the “financial crisis” does the same in other western economies as well, like the UK or US.

In Germany a new Anti-Euro party is forming, online comments in online newspapers are full of angry and polemic posts and when I was in London for business last week, an elder american client told me how deeply feared he and all his peers are these days about the breakup of the USD and how he’d buy guns and food to be prepared. Strange.

Fun thing was:
I had a couple of nice and free beers there in this nice London pub, took a look at the girls around and it was an interesting debate, but I myself was absolutely free  from any fear or worries while this guy was talking about his horrors, his guns and all the horrible things to come (or not too come…)!

Coming back to Munich, I pondered a few days about why I am so relaxed on all this stuff and others aren’t.
And more than that, most of my peers (friends, colleagues my age etc.) are not too worried either.

Why the hell is this?

And today it struck me that this question is about age and attitude towards life in general.

I don’t know how old you are, but probably the target group of this blog is the guys in the earlier half of their careers and work-life, so chances are that most of you will understand the following:

When you are under 40 and grew up in a western economy, decline, uncertainty, new threats and a general tough ride on the roller-coaster of life were probably a constant companion since you left school or so.

And more so it was in (West)Germany.

In Germany, the “good old times” ended shortly after the wall came down. Until 1992 or so everybody was still enthusiastic about the reunification, end of cold war etc.
But the rest of the 90s the bills piled up, unemployment rose, the economy suffered from high costs to re-vitalize the east german economy and wages for the broad population came under pressure by cheap labor from eastern Europe. East German countrymen had a tough time as well, as the new shiny capitalism also had quite a few hard edges that were not expected.

On top it became clear that the pension system would not survive until my generation would benefit from it (while we still had to pay more on more to fund the Caribbean trips of the current generations of retirees). Then there was the climate change, a bunch of threatening new diseases, ozone holes, Y2K error and god knows what.

…therefore, in the 90s, during university I learned: “It will not be easy for you“. And it seemed reasonable.

Then came 2000-2003.

No fun either. Stock market crash. The “end of the world” after a small interlude of hyper-hysterica around the internet v1.0. Another spike in unemployment. 9/11. Terror upon us all! Could strike whenever, wherever! Panic! And panic NOW!

…therefore, until 2003 I learned: “Not only will it not be easy for you, but you MUST fear a lot!”. And it seemed reasonable.

Then came 2004-2008.

OMG! Germany at the brink of decline! The ill man in europe! The chinese will take it all over in no time! Social security systems were chopped down, labor became much more unsafe, wages fell, social add-ons in my company and every where else were cut heavily. High unemployment and terminal decline of Germany was a certainty predicted by all the “experts”.

…therefore I learned: “Not only will it not be easy for you and you MUST fear a lot, but also you are ALONE against a billion cheap and self-exploiting workers from China!”. And it seemed reasonable.

Then came 2009-2012.

OMG again! PANIC! PAAAAANIC! The financial crisis! The world will end TODAY!! We will suffer something harder than death! (what exactly nobody was able to tell me…) We WILL lose all our money. We will all have to go to the woods and find mushrooms to survive. Buy guns and rice and fire wood because the end is soooo near! And don’t forget to PANIC!!
To spice up the situation a bit, I just had changed job, was in the middle of the probation period (easy to fire), my department got restructured, my company was due to get hit by the crisis, my investments were crushed, we just were moved to a quite expensive rental house and my wife was pregnant with our first boy. Hmm.

So belief me (and excuse the expression), I was shaking in my boots and shitting bricks 24/7.
I could not sleep, and if then I was haunted by bad dreams in the night while I was sticking to the news ticker at day, waiting for the final strike to come.

…therefore I learned: “Not only will it not be easy for you and you MUST fear a lot and you are ALONE against a billion cheap and selfexploiting workers from China, but also everything can COLLAPSE anytime!”.

And then….something strange happened.

From one day to the other, this did not sound reasonable anymore.

From one day to the other, this suddenly just sounded like a bunch of crap and empty words that cannot really harm.

From one day to the other, I suddenly was entirely beyond fear. Somehow I had dived through the wave crushing down on my, had come up the other side to see the sea is calm and the sun shining.

And belief me, I have never met fear again since then.

I still don’t know why, but it just vanished, washed away and gave room for something else. For the deep belief, that after all, this (our life) is much too robust to be affected by some crap like that.

I would fear war, and I would fear bodily violence.
But the Euro Crisis? Inflation? Haircuts? A new currency? Higher taxes?
Come on, is this all you can muster, dear gods of evil?

So, coming back to the beginning of this post – I think by now I know the meaning of “what does not kill you, makes you harder”. It is true.
And I think many of the younger guys here might feel the same.

Because we grew up in uncertain times.

Shocks were our daily milk. Bad news the butter on our bread. For a long time I was unhappy with my fate of being born in such difficult times. But now I know it was a great gift.

Because it allowed me to understand that you have to take control of your live, you have to fight back fear and you have to live your life here and now!

Do not postpone it until later!

Do not trust too much in nice things to come tomorrow! Look for them today.

I see that attitude a lot among my generation and even more among the younger guys. And I like it! Despite all, people in their 20s and 30s today seem to be a lot more confident than those in their 50s and 60s! The young increasingly seem to turn away from blind consumption, career focus, elbow mentality and greed and towards social ties, life-work balance, family, mutual trust and all of these other old fashioned things.

This is a good sign guys, the tide is turning, carry on!



Saving in times of Financial Unrest

Saving is a key concept for those who would like to become financially independent or retire early.

Saving efforts put discipline to spending, increase conscious buying behaviour and obviously generate income and a stash for future enjoyment.

Normally all the above should hold true.

Unfortunately we do not live in normal times. We live in times of great financial unrest throughout the western world.

And this unrest imposes large threats to your saving accounts.

Debt levels in the western world do not look promising…

Let’s get a step back and see what is at the core of the financial crisis that is haunting us for 4 years now:

Continue reading