Welcome to the second post of my blogger interview series. I asked 20 questions of Amber Tree Leaves. The first blogger interviewed was Sabeel from Roadmap 2 Retire. I’ve had great responses from bloggers, so this series will be running for a while. Other bloggers on deck are the Dividend Diplomats, Divhut, and many more.
Amber Tree Leaves is a blog out of Belgium run by a father of two toddlers. I first stumbled across this blog a few months ago and I’ve been a regular ever since. ATL, is an options trader first and he’s starting to dabble in dividend growth investing. I found his site while looking for other bloggers who trade options. ATL is also a photographer. All of the images on his site are his own. I need to give him credit here, as I stole one of his photos for this post :-). I hope you enjoy learning more about Amber Tree Leaves.
20 Questions with Amber Tree Leaves
Where do you live?
I live in Belgium. A small country in the center of Europe. We are mainly known for beer, chocolate and French Fries. I live in the northern part where we speak dutch. The southern part speaks French and some people in the east speak German. All of that with 11 million people.
What are your hobbies?
The obvious answer here is personal finance. I really like the topic and read a lot about it. More specific, it is options trading that really gets most of my attention. Next to that, I like photography. To be more precise: Urbex or Urban exploration. I try to have only pictures I took on my blog. I try to run twice a week to keep myself in good shape. It is a good activity to destress. Even if I only run 5K, I feel totally relaxed afterwards. The initial plan was to run a 20K this year. Due to an injury, I am back at square 1 now. On the weekends, I try to create some experiences with my kids so we can bond: We go swimming, take the bus to the city, take the bike to go to a playground, do some board games,… Anything that lets us do things together. A fun thing we do is bike-run. They are on the bike and I run. Last time we did this, I could not follow the oldest anymore. I like the progress she makes on a bike.
Which countries or major cities have you lived in or traveled to?
My whole life, I have lived in Belgium. For work, I did had some nice trips to different countries and cities: New York, Philadelphia, London, Munich, Vienna, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong, Madrid. We also like to travel. Countries I visited are: US, Mexico, Coast Rica, Nicaragua, Ecuador, China, Dubai, Portugal, France, Italy, Holland, Germany, Swiss (and some more). We plan to start traveling soon with the kids. We only want to do big overseas travel when they appreciate what happens. The last 6 years, we went to the Belgian coast. Last winter, we took our first ski holiday as a family. We went to Swiss. Both the kids loved it and want to go again next winter.
Which sports or teams are your favorites?
At this moment – June 2016 – My favorite team: the Red Devils. It has been 16 years that we participated to the European soccer championship. Now we are there again and have – on paper – a top team. Let’s hope we get far! Other than that, I am not really into following a team. When I was way younger, the Bulls were my favorite basketball team. A choice heavily biased by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
For this one, I go for the different volunteer vacations I did while being in college. It was my solution to travel cheap through Europe while having limited funds available. I did work vacations of 3 weeks in France and Portugal. I can recommend this to everybody.
When you are a child, what profession did you want to be?
When younger, the classics like police officer, fireman or prince. At age 17, I was more thinking in the direction of land surveyor to draw the as is of cities. I was attracted by the outdoors of the job. I choose my college based on this. It turned out very different while going through the first 2 years at college. I ended up in electro mechanics. Not that I use that nowadays…
What is your career today?
My field of expertise is making the link between business/marketing people and development teams. Over time, I have learned to speak both languages. And I like it. I can translate a business idea into specifications for development teams. At the same time, I also take care that the legal/compliance and other stakeholders are consulted and in agreement with the product. The last 12 years I have been working in banking. I moved to an insurance start-up at the end of June.
What is your primary motivation to reach financial independence and retire early?
My primary motivation is freedom to do what I want as much as possible on my terms! I am a little stubborn and like to act a little rebellious from time to time. Of course, I know how to behave in a corporate world and I am well aware of the social and business rules. It would just be great to only do projects in great companies, hand-picked by me! It would allow me to live the life I really want: work hard and party hard. The party would be travel the world and call myself a photographer.
At what age are you planning on retiring?
The plan is to retire when the kids finish high school. The current date I use is 2029. I will be 53 by then. As with any plan, it needs to be a flexible plan. A few years sooner would be great, a few years later is ok. Especially if in the mean time, I can life the live I want. My recent decision to go to a startup has a great impact on the date. For me, the date 2029 is a benchmark, a guideline for my actions.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when you retire?
First thing to do is slow travel to a nice warm country, take pictures, act like a local and experience the different life style. Some months later, I guess I will get a little bored. At that time, I will take on some project work for a year or so and then travel again. That is how I see things now. Off course, only the future will tell what really happens.
If money were no object, but you had to have a job what would you do for a living?
Honestly, the job I have now. Yes, it is not perfect. It allows me to have challenges on different levels and create solutions for business problems. When money were not an object, I might do this at charity organisations rather than in a corporate with profit targets.
If you could go back in time, what investment advice would you give to your past self?
Invest via Dollar Cost Average in the market via index funds. Do this as of paycheck one. Early on in life, I was a classical Belgian: save the cash in a savings account, use it as a down payment for the first house and then save more cash for later. With hindsight, I would also have bought all the puts I could on the stock market in the summer of 2008 ;-).
If you could only use one metric to evaluate a stock, which one would you choose?
Tough one… I am really a new kid on the block when it comes to stock selection. I base my selection on what I read from others and a very basic analysis of the charts. In the end, I would go for dividend growth.
How do you stay the course when markets are down?
Most of the investment is automated, so I have to do nothing when the markets are down. I also have an emergency fund that should enable me to not sell when the markets are down. For now, it works. Let’s see if it keeps working. On the other hand, given my move to a startup, my biggest monthly investing has been put on hold to increase our cash buffer to cope with the increased risk at work.
What’s your favorite aspect of blogging?
The interaction that there is in the community. You can get feedback on your ideas. Not only from comments on your posts, also by reading stories from others.
Why should people read your blog?
For fun and entertainment. Via my blog, I bring a perspective on what getting FIRE is for a late starting Belgian father. I am not into cutting massive expenses and living ultra frugal. Yes, we have a budget we grant ourselves for everyday living and holidays. Our plan is to keep this stable as it lets us live a life we like and plan to keep living forever.
Which 5 blogs do you visit the most?
I follow the blogs via an RSS reader. Based upon the title and short description, I decide to read the article or not. On top of my head, the top 5 would be:
Our Next Life
Dividends Down Under
What’s your best source of traffic to your blog?
Good question… I do not actively follow this up. I have a standard WordPress.com blog. I do not have Google analytics or any other tracking tool. It is not one of my core actions with the blog. For the month of June, I just looked it up: Number one is search engine, then Facebook and thirdly then WordPress reader. Funny actually.
Why do you blog?
The main reasons to blog are:
1- document my journey and keep me accountable for my actions
2- Figure out how to become FIRE and what to do at that time
3- Have some fun readings to start the discussion with my kids.
What’s the name and URL of your blog or blogs?
My blog is Amber Tree Leaves – http://ambertreeleaves.wordpress.com
I started reading ATLs site to interact more with a blogger who trade options. But as I gotten to know ATL better, he’s a great guy with a lot of knowledge in many areas. I think you’ll like his blog.