I have a dream

I take a small break in my financial story series to answer a call to action for bloggers by family W, owners of the amazing blog What Life Could Be.

The post I’m talking about is this one:

In Search of the Perfect Community

Go read it, enjoy it, dream about it, then come back.

The post is about defining what their perfect local community would be, followed by a concrete path to go there. There’s no actual plan yet, but the discussion is started and I’ll do my best to take part and give it visibility.

Here’s a brief summary: they live in Germany but Mr.W comes from Transylvania while Mrs.W is Scottish. They went for a family visit in Transylvania and rediscovered the amazingness of a socially interconnected local community. They got gifts, wine for free at every individual cellar, Pàlinka (Hungarian Grappa, tried several times thanks to Hungarian friends, superb!). The thoughts they shared – that is still sticky into my brain – is: Try doing that in Germany.

I live in the socially cold too Switzerland and come from the socially hot Italy. I feel like I could have written that post. Try doing that in Switzerland… Small digression here: we have an amazing social circle here in Switzerland, mostly due to Italian friends living here and few colleagues, but we have no connection with the people that share our building. Not even with the people in our neighborhood. That really sucks!

My opinion is that this country, Switzerland but same works for Germany, is optimal for a normal life. It’s the place with the best score in any best place where to live analysis. It constantly ranks in the top 3 countries for quality of life, life expectancy, pro-person GDP, employment rateaverage salary and constantly at the top of the where-to-be-born index. It’s the country where you’ll probably be happier if you are ok with a “work 9 to 5 till you’re 65” life. That’s why it attracts a lot of foreigners that here can settle and feel safe. Usually, living in these places is very expensive, but with your generous salary you can afford it.

In Italy though life is way less productive, there are less jobs available and unemployment rate is in the 2 digits (and the value is artificially underestimated, since employment rate is 56%) with a great inequality between north and south. The south of Italy is definitely not an ideal place if you need a job, probably like Transylvania. That’s why young people escape those places. At the same time, living here is cheap. Houses costs very little and so does services.

Here’s the trick: once you’re FIRE, you don’t need a job anymore! Even better, calling yourself Financially Independent in a costly country means you have to ‘stash more money! My rough analyses (on which I’ll follow up in the near future with its own post) is that the ratio between the monthly budget for my family in Switzerland vs Italy is roughly between 2.5 and 3 to 1. I need at least 2.5 times the wealth I’d need if I move back to Italy, which translates in several years – maybe even a decade -more to work.

That’s one of my pillars to be able to reach FI in 5 years: we won’t be living here in Switzerland when we’ll be Early Retired. As I anticipated I’ll be back on the topic on this blog, since there are other aspects to be investigated, numbers to be eviscerated and other people’s lives to be impacted (MissRIP and eventually few babyRIPs).

So, moving to a cheaper location is already in my plans. Let’s move to the next aspect of the Mr.W idea: gathering selected people together to go living the closer the possible. That’s another amazing idea, one of which I keep throwing in my social circles since I was a kid.

I wanted to settle in a mansion with my best friends when I was a kid. It would have been a horrible idea though.

I wanted to settle with my theater friends in a old, ancient, ruined theater and live there and create a theater company and play all day. It would have been an horrible idea too.

I got passionate about communes, where people live together and share everything and there’s no individual economy. I dreamed of living in one of these! It would probably be the worst of all ideas.

All the above mentioned hypothetical scenarios are doomed to fail for me because they are idealistic and not pragmatic, plus I care a lot about freedom and individuality. I’m allergic to rules, I love individual responsibility and accountability and I reject given-for-granted things.

modelloecovillaggioI’m still a fan of improving my community though. For years I have been wondering if there’s a standard way to build a socially ideal local community based on the joy of sharing but respectful of the individuals. A more pragmatic solution to this problem. I found interesting solutions in the concepts of cohousing and ecovillage, where independent private lives are the key but the environment facilitates and boosts connections and sharing. Yes, I found the right tool for me!

Next issue is: with whom?

In my teenager years and early 20s I dreamed about gathering my friends and go living together with our future families. Again, this would not have been a great idea too. Although I still like my teenager friends, I feel the limits in their approaches to life. They are Italians, they know they will have to work till age 76 and they can’t do a shit about it. It would not be ok to live as an early retiree among people who think everyone is doomed. Jealousy will arise and everything would be destroyed.

Recently a better idea is bouncing in my head: why not gather together smart people (current colleagues, software engineers, creative people) and go repopulating a rural area that is being abandoned or left with only elderly people as inhabitants? 70% of Italy is exactly in this situation. I’ve seen amazing semi-ghost towns that are waiting for us.

This can actually be a business idea! We go there, buy houses for peanuts money, spend our abundant time, physical energies and maybe little money to improve the local community, organize events, bring wealth, attract others and then we have assets (houses) that may be worth 5-10x the price at which we bought them, to go somewhere else and repeat the experiment. There can be room for being digital nomads and/or work remotely (we could host hackerparadise chapters, just saying…) It hasn’t to be after retirement! I can’t stop thinking about that.

In this framework, the proposal of Mr.W fits perfectly and improves my original idea: why limit to software engineers or other kind of “smart people” and not consider FIRE folks? It’s actually way safer and better since the FIRE community traditionally has an edge on DIY and it’s full of people with creative ideas and passions.

ecovillaggioFew questions left but the toughest. Where? I guess this is very personal and everyone has their own roots. I’m Italian, I feel at home in Italy. Is there room for discussion here? I don’t know, maybe I’m simply scared, but I don’t see myself and my future family living in Transylvania. Nothing personal, maybe I need to visit the place before having an opinion, but I have an attraction for my home country. I love the sun, the sea, genuine food and the familiarity of speaking my native language.

We are just fantasizing here though, I know very little about how painful life for an early retiree would be in Italy. There may be wealth taxes or capital gain taxes or dividend taxes or even foreign investment taxes. Maybe it’s not good for ETF investors like me (but maybe it’s ok for a rental property strategy, I don’t know yet! Food for thoughts!). There may be too many thefts, especially in the houses inhabited by rich people that don’t have to go to work so rich they are…

Last one. When? As always, not now. I’m still scared. I’m only 44.6% ready now, as my logo says at the time of writing this post, July 2016. Yes, I said that it hasn’t to be after retirement, but I want to be closer. I’m still willing to listen to proposals and to take actions if I feel confident. That’s something that is going to happen anyway, sooner or later!

Final notes: if you have a blog and you like the idea, please write your thoughts and/or share the original article (or mine, I won’t mind) and comment on the original post. If you feel my post added something worth exploring please let me know here, but don’t forget to comment on the original post to keep the centrality of the discussion.

4 comments

  1. Great post. You got the idea!
    “This can actually be a business idea” – come on…this shouldn’t be about business. Hahaha. Plus, why move on when you built a up a good community?
    People on the way early retirement (or already financially free) seem to understand what I’m talking about…
    I made a decision: FIWE 2017 will be in Transylvania. 🙂

    1. … and I won’t miss the Transylvania’s FIWE 🙂

      Yes, we have an amazing community but still don’t feel integrated with the society. I dream about driving the local community and having impacts. Plus, our friends err on the side of “keeping up with Joneses” and are lifestyle inflationeers. Not extreme, we’re not talking about debts-friendly people, but still no one is aiming at early retirement. I love to think about having people I like around me on Wednesday mornings when I’ll be ER. I simply don’t see this happening here.

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