FIWE 2016 Actually Happened – How Did It Go?

Wow… Financial Independence Week Europe (FIWE) actually happened! For me this is such a great feeling. In late 2015 we had an idea to bring together some fellow FIRE bloggers and have a great time somewhere nice. We wrote a blog post to get the message out and it was great to see how many people were interested in actually coming. I mean, actually buying a plane/train ticket, booking a room and coming to meet complete strangers in a city most of them had never been to.

WOW!

Am I surprised? No! Simply because I know the FIRE community well enough to know what cool people are out there and how much they want to meet similar people in real life. Blogging is good, but actually meeting people with similar mindsets is a lot better and this is a major reason why we started our blog in the first place.

So what did we do?

Rooftop bar beside Bazilika

Rooftop bar

Day 1 – Wed 20th July: Mrs W and I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and met Oliver (frugalisten.de) who had arrived the night before. He stayed for a whole week just like us so we walked and talked a lot with him. We love his blog. His minimalistic, rational way of life makes so much sense. What a great guy!

Day 2 – Thurs 21st July: We spent the day walking through the city, had a look at St Stephan’s mummified hand and discovered a rooftop bar with fantastic views of St Stephan’s Basilica and the rest of the city. We decided not to stop there for a drink since the price list wasn’t very Mustachian 🙂

Bacon Lángos

Bacon and red onion lángos

Later we had a long walk on Margaret Island, where we had some good lángos. We also spent an hour or two having some very affordable drinks on a boat that’s part of the city’s public transportation system. If you visit Budapest, make sure you check it out.

In the evening Amber Tree Leaves and his wife arrived form Belgium so we picked them up from their hotel and took them for lángos (probably the most calorie-dense of all Hungarian fast food). Great stuff.

 

Day 3 – Fri 22nd July: We had breakfast in a very nice place called Vintage Garden. This was the place where we discovered how frugal our wallets are. Have a look 🙂

Left to right: Oli, Mr W, ATL

Green Didl-Maus kids wallet: Software engineer
Moustache duct tape wallet: Online marketing consultant
Paper wallet: Option trader

Unfortunately not all participants made it. Ankur had to cancel at short notice since one of his kids was ill. His visit to our home is allready in planning though…

Later on we went to a ruin pub where we discovered minty lemonade. That’s where Jenny and MadFIentist joined us. From there we moved to a different ruin pub called Kuplung where we picked up the Klunkerchen girls and waited for Natasha and Martin.

In the evening we had a long walk along both sides of the Danube. Walking turned out to be a great way of talking to everybody in the group since you can move about more freely than in a restaurant or bar where you tend to only talk to your direct neighbours.

Day 4 – Sat 23rd July:


In the morning a friend of ours gave us a guided tour of the Pest side of the city that included Heroes’ Square, and the iconic Parliament building. We ended up at the central market where some of us tried a modern Hungarian fast food beauty called Kolbice. It’s basically a bunch of cheeky little sausages with cream cheese, salad or sauerkraut in a crunchy bread pocket. Mmmmm…

In the afternoon we checked out the labyrinth of tunnels under the castle (where Dracula was apparently kept prisoner for 10 years). This was a new one for me and Mrs W too (thanks to Jenny for the suggestion). We had a really spooky experience walking through the dark tunnels and even learned some stuff about medieval Hungary.

Once again our day ended in a ruin pub (Köleves). Can you see a pattern emerging here? This time though we discussed how, when and where we want FIWE 2017 to happen. More details below…

Day 5 – Sun 24th July: We started the day at Rudás, one of the oldest Turkish baths in the city. It’s fairly small, but its 500-year-old Turkish section, the fact that it sits right on the banks of the Danube and its rooftop jacuzzi with 360° views of Budapest make it worth visiting.

The Székelygulyás (cabbage-based Hungarian goulash) we had for lunch was not a bad decision after the baths. Yet another opportunity to sit down and talk, talk, talk!

You might have noticed that I can’t talk about Budapest without talking about food. You just can’t use the word Budapest in a sentence without mentioning the wide variety of meals and really good wines you can have there!

At lunchtime, one of the two non-blogger participants arrived: Mr Y from Germany. He originally comes from Indonesia, and he actually just started (possibly the first ever) Financial blog in Indonesian. Be sure to check it out if you speak the language.

During our early afternoon ice cream session first people started to leave to catch their flights home and our second non-blogger arrived: a Dutch guy called Robert who lives in Vienna. Once the new group was complete we all went up to our AirBnB apartment and had some wine.

In a change from our usual evening programme, we picked a Mexican ruin pub/restaurant for our evening discussions. Mrs W was happy to have a break from Hungarian food (after 3 months in Romania eating nothing else, it was time for a change). The place we picked turned out to be pretty loud though so it was difficult to talk properly.

fenyutcai piac

Fényutca Market

Day 6 – Mon 25th July: Time to leave the tourist trail and show our guests some of the real Hungary: breakfast at an authentic local market (Fényutcai piac). We love it and know it well since we’ve spent a lot of time in the area.

What do you do after breakfast? Exactly! Lunch! After a coffee and a lot more interesting discussions we had lunch in a nice pedestrian street nearby.

Then it was time to make good on our promise of a boat trip on one of those commuter boats. There’s no better place to have a glass of good Hungarian wine than on a boat going up and down the Danube with the parliament on one side and the castle on the other. The ride was basically free. I love that.

 

fiwe16

Mustachians of FIWE 2016

Later we met some Hungarian friends in a restaurant for our last dinner together. We tried to sell our friends the concept of FI with limited success and Mr W and our tour guide from Saturday sang the Hungarian national anthem right there on the street. Then it was time to divide up a metre-long bill once again before taking a final walk through the city and saying goodbye.

Day 7 – Tues 26th July: Unfortunately FIWE ended for us as well early on Tuesday morning when we decided to go home because our kids were a bit ill. We were really lucky my family took care of them so that we could be in Budapest for a whole week. We’re really thankful to them.

So what did we think of the first FIWE?

When I first started thinking about organising something like this, I knew we’d meet some cool people. I had no idea how many bloggers would make it, but it wasn’t even that important. I just wanted to get people together and brainstorm about building up the FIRE community in Europe, have a nice time and talk about things we like to talk about.

Here are some random things that I personally learned from this first event:

  • We didn’t run out of stuff to talk about: Even though there are so many different countries in Europe with different tax systems and laws etc. there are enough topics to talk about. The concept of FIRE is universal but everyone has to adapt the strategies and find out how things work in their own countries. Most of the time we didn’t even talk about finances, tax stuff or the like. We mostly talked about general lifestyle things like minimalist living.
  • Geographic arbitrage is big: The excuse “Oh, but the tax laws are so different in each EU country, there’s no point about talking about it” is nonsense. The fact that laws are different makes the discussions all the more exciting: Europe is the place for geographic arbitrage. FIWE is a forum for discovering interesting strategies.
  • The stuff people don’t write about is at least as interesting as the stuff they do write about: Reading European FI blogs is great, but what’s even better is to talk to the people behind the blogs and find out what they don’t write about. All those little loopholes, all those legal differences between countries that are soo good and so incredible that people don’t really want to publicise them. For me this point alone makes it really worthwhile to continue with the whole FIWE project.
  • We made new friends. The other participants were just great. Obviously I won’t become really close friends with everybody we met, but everybody was interesting in their own way and I feel very positive and look forward to meeting them again soon.
  • We learned about ourselves: Organising FIWE made me and Mrs W stronger as a couple. I am the one who comes up with the crazy ideas, while Mrs W is really good at making my dreams reality. She enjoys dealing with the small details. It works really well and we both know how important that is for our relationship. Raising kids together is one thing, but having a common project is something that makes us stronger and happier as a couple.
  • Having enough time to talk to everybody properly is important: Enough said.
  • Give precise information: As the organisers, it’s up to us to set out a clear framework for the event with clear rules so that everything goes smoothly. At future events we’ll need to improve how we manage things like exchanging money and getting metro passes so that we save ourselves and the participants a lot of time.

FIWE 2016 is over – so when is FIWE 2017 happening?

We discussed FIWE 2017 with the other participants and got loads of great ideas. At the moment we’re working hard to get a time and place pinned down, then we’ll be posting more details here and on our facebook page. Watch this space…

Update: here’s Mrs W’s post about FIWE

  • Chucho

    Hi Mr & Mrs W,

    I discovered your blog this weekend through a comment of yours on that German language thread on the MMM forum. And through your blog roll I found all these other German language FI blogs. Thanks for that! The last time I checked a number of years ago there weren’t any FI blogs with a German/European perspective worth following, and now there are so many – great!

    That weekend in Budapest sounded like fun. I would have liked to come – but then again I don’t have a blog … So here is my suggestion: Why don’t you turn FIWE 2017 into more of a FI conference? Something along the line of these Chautauquas in Ecuador that JL Collins and MMM attend? I’d be one of the first to sign up!

    One thing that currently interests me are the different legal/tax frameworks across the EU that make reaching FI harder/easier. We can live and work anywhere in the EU (okay, the UK might become harder to move to in the near future). So whether you’re still trying to reach FI or are already there and live off your passive income why not base yourself in a country with lower taxes? Especially if you’re travelling a lot anyway.

    You guys seem to be already doing this with your Germany/Scotland/Romania setup.

    • Hi Chuco. Thanks for stepping by!

      “So here is my suggestion: Why don’t you turn FIWE 2017 into more of a FI conference? Something along the line of these Chautauquas in Ecuador that JL Collins and MMM attend? I’d be one of the first to sign up!”

      Well..that’s exactly what we want to reach with FIWE: an EU conference with about 25 particiants (bloggers AND non-bloggers). Only the first edition was meant for bloggers to do some brainsotrming for the next FIWEs. Follow the blog and e’ll post our plans soon.
      In fact, I came up with the idea of FIWE after researching about participating at Chautauqua and I saw the ~1800dollar ticket price. Then I said to Mrs W: we should do something like this in Europe but not for profit and available for anybody, not just the few ones that can afford it.

      “One thing that currently interests me are the different legal/tax frameworks across the EU that make reaching FI harder/easier. We can live and work anywhere in the EU (okay, the UK might become harder to move to in the near future). So whether you’re still trying to reach FI or are already there and live off your passive income why not base yourself in a country with lower taxes? Especially if you’re travelling a lot anyway.”
      It’s good to see that you see things the same way as I do. These things can be so interresting and it’s more-ore-less uncharted territory. For me it’s like christmas, easter and new year at the same: each country can have very diferent, very interresting tax laws, healthcare systems that should be researched by the community. I can imagine very interresting talks about these issues at the next FIWEs

      • Chucho

        Your plans for future FIWEs sound great! At one time I briefly toyed with the idea of attending the Chautauqua, but figured it wasn’t a very frugal thing to do. Especially since I have already been to Ecuador twice and the principles behind FI are so simple. So although it would have been nice to spond time with like-minded people just didn’t seem worth it.

        “For me it’s like christmas, easter and new year at the same: each country can have very diferent, very interresting tax laws, healthcare systems that should be researched by the community.”

        I hope that we don’t have to wait for the next FIWE for more posts on that topic 🙂 Writing about this will give your blog a unique perspective. And with a foothold in three countries you guys are probably more qualified than most to write about this.

        • hehe, we wrote allready some geographic arbitrage articles and some are allready in the pipeline. Of course, we’ll only write about issues that we get in touch with, that we need to figure out. EU is a big place so exploring the tax differences in the whole of the continent is not a job for one blogger. Although some things could be put in a table for comparison (like tax rates, capital gain tax etc).
          There are some other expats that write blogs in Europe and do writ about geographic arbitrage as well (i.e. frugalisten.de). Also, the digitla nomads community is great in this area. There are so many nomads criss-crossing the world and figuring out/writing about stuff like that. Feel free to share in the coments here when you find something interresting.

          • Chucho

            I would be happy to read guest posts here from FI’ers from all over Europe and beyond! They might have some tricks up their sleeves …

            I left a comment on frugalisten.de last night – http://frugalisten.de/so-gehe-ich-mit-40-in-rente-mein-masterplan-fuer-die-finanzielle-unabhaengigkeit/

            What I mentioned there were three things that might make achieving FI easier in the UK than in Germany:

            – lower taxes for people on average incomes (at least for singles; the Ehegattensplitting might give a different picture for married couples)

            – lower Sozialabgaben. Healthcare is tax-financed and national insurance contributions are also lower(?).

            – And the Individual Savings Account (ISA) that will let you save GBP 20,000 per annum tax free from next tax year. That must make a huge difference in net returns and compound interest if the taxman doesn’t take 26,375% of each year’s gains

            On the other hand other aspects of taxation might be more favourable in Germany compared to the UK. Like you wrote in an earlier article you have the 2 or 2.5% AfA for rental properties and of course you can deduct mortgage interest – something that will be phased out in the UK. But then again the German Mietrecht strongly favours tenants … all very interesting. And these are just comparisons of two countries!

    • Btw, Chuch, would you mind telling a bit about yourself?

      • Chucho

        Well, I’m 48, live in Berlin and have been FI for two years. That is when I moved out of a huge house into a small 40 square meter flat. I now live on about 15% of my former square footage. The rental income from the house is a large part of my income. It’s also nice that my tenants bought most of my furniture!

        I have other rental properties, but right no stock market ivestments. Might want to start investing in ETFs though. I’m pretty much sorted financially from age 60/65/67: state pension, company pension from ex-employer, private pension that I still pay in to each month. I just have to get through the next 12 years financially before that part of my passive income will start rolling in 🙂

        I do some freelance work from home to supplement my income. And my biggest client actually suggested I could work from anywhere! She had just spent three weeks at a wonderful affordable hotel on Sri Lanka and suggested I should work from there for a while.

        I tend to live frugally by my own definition, although hardcore minimalists might find my lifestyle quite wasteful. And if I occasionally buy stuff that isn’t strictly necessary it often upsets me a bit. I have to tell myself that this particular purchase won’t have a negative impact on my financial future whatsoever, and then I can laugh at myself a bit for being so stingy.

        • very good job! congrats! It’s a question that most people should think about: what’s more important: being free or living in a huge house? Lookes like you answered that for yourself!
          I do pay private pension (basisrente) but unfortunatelly it wasn’t a good deal. I paid a lot in commisions. I still pay it now but probably not for very long. I am not sure it’s worth it but the goo thing is that it’s tax deductible. What sort of private pension do you have? Is it tax dedcutibe? Was the commision high?

          • Also, your situation is very similar to ours: buy rental properties, become FI, then still work as self employed. We also just started investing in ETFs at the beginning of the year. I think it make sense to use it as diversivication. Keeping the surplus money in a bank account with no interest is not very exciting.
            If you don’t have a faily, you are free to live the life you want. You can becoma digital nomad and just keep traveling. In Germany the fix costs are still very high….

          • Chucho

            There are of course parents who travel the world with their school age kids! I’m sure the kids learn so much more this way than in the average school.

            And there is one thing you have I’m envious about: your mysterious passive income generating website 🙂

          • Chucho

            Mine is a “Herold Ansparrente” (now operated by Zurich), not tax deductible. I’ve had it for 2+ decades, when I started making good money. I have never looked into it, but the way these things are structured I’m sure the first few years’ worth of rates went into commissions (“gezillmerte Verträge”).

            But I signed the contract at a time when there was still a 4% guaranteed interest rate from the insurance companies. If I cancelled the contract now I would get back ~€50k and would still get a ~€70 pension a month from age 65. If I stopped paying in now without cancelling I would get a pension of ~€570 per month. And if I keep paying in €285 a month until ‘m 65 I’ll either get a lump sum of ~€184k or a monthly pension of ~€980. BTW initially my monthly rate was much lower. It grows by 5% each year (plus higher benefits) to make up for inflation. I can opt out of this (and probably will in the future).

          • Chucho

            Of course I don’t know if the 4% guarantee will hold up in this low interest environment …

  • Dummerchen

    Damn, this world is so small. You met Yongkie in Budapest! He is a former colleague and guess how we met the first time? We made an appointment in the MMM-forum and met in a local bar. During our talk we realized our similarities – we even took the same train to our employer sometimes :-D! So funny…

    Your meeting sounds like a lot of fun and I don’t wonder at all, that you are mentioning food within every second sentence. I loved Budapest as well when I visited it with my wife during our honeymoons. What is the next location you are striving for? What about Prague? Should be in the same price region and always a cool place to visit.

    Hopefully I will be able to join such an interesting group. Most of this years visitors’ blogs are part of my reading list and I might have left a comment or two at some of them ;-).

    Dummerchen

    • haha…there are a handful mustachians in Germany and you 2 met in the same office? WTF? 🙂
      Hope we find a babysitter so we can organise a small meetup un south-west Germany…

      • Dummerchen

        Yes, please. I’m looking forward to crossing the frontiers between Baden and Württemberg ;-). A small meetup sounds wonderful – just drop me a line. I’m quite sure, you know how to contact me directly ;-).

        But to be honest, I wouldn’t call me a mustachian – I read each and every of his articles, but I’m far away from living such a frugal lifestyle.

    • Mr. Y

      Hi Dummerchen, the world may not so small. But it is our community and our thought that make the world small ;).
      I hope also that we can meet again soon.

      • Dummerchen

        Sure. We’ll have the shortest distance to travel to meet again ;-). I was really surprised to see you blogging. Unfortunately my Indonesian is a bit rusty – so you’ll have to tell me in person what you’re writing about.

  • Envy level over 9000… Next year I won’t miss.
    Thanks for organizing this, W!

    • We’ll be posting details of FIWE 2017 very soon, so keep watching the blog. We’re busy coordinating with our potential venue. It’s really exciting 😀

    • We’re counting with you!

  • amber tree

    First of all, big thumbs up for Mr and Mrs W for taking the time to set this up. The 4 days in Budapest were great. The food was amazing, the beer was ok (Hey, I am from Belgium, what do you want me to say?) The best of all: meeting up with all these other bloggers, exchanging stories, ideas, fears, plans. We are happy to be part of this.
    We look forward to the 2017 edition and hope we can fit in in the schedule

    • Big thumbs up for you and your lovely wife for booking the trip! Hope to see you soon!

  • Congrats on the first ever FIWE!!! Looks like everyone had a great time. We’re sorry we couldn’t make it – maybe next year if we’re around. When is Ankur visiting you in Germany? Maybe we can time it to all meet together, and have a mini FIWG. 🙂

    • it wil be spontaneus (beacause of kids management) but will let you know. Looking forward to seeing you!

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