Tag Archives: saving

Summary of (my) 2013

Let me share with you a brief recap of my 2013. (1)

I defined my 2011 as a year on the run and my 2012 as a year of change, and yet 2013 brought more running and more change that either 2011 or 2012! To me 2013 will be a family year: as Luca and I got married and we got a baby, Andrea.

At the beginning of 2013 I did not set a list of objectives to be fulfilled along the year as with the wedding preparations and the coming of Andrea I was going to have plenty of occupations. However, that does not mean that it was a quiet 2013.

Getting married.

Getting married.

May 11, 2013. On that day Luca and I celebrated our wedding. That was our highlight of the first half of the year. We celebrated it close to my parents’ place, in the hills close to Madrid, on a great spring evening , surrounded by most of our relatives and friends (many of you, coming not only from all corners in Spain but from Canada, Brazil, The Netherlands, France, Italy, Switzerland…). Apart from being a very emotive day we had lots of fun.

The monday after the wedding we departed for a honeymoon around the US west coast. We took the opportunity to visit the usual suspects of the area (LA, San Francisco, Grand Canyon, Sequoia Park, Yosemite…) and the not so common places: the aircraft cemetery known as The Boneyard and the AF Flight Test Center (this required visiting 2 US Air Force bases: Davids-Monthan and Edwards), the aviation museums of Pima and Seattle, the Lowell observatory, the Boeing 787 / 777 /747 Final Assembly Lines…

Family Irastorza Van Veen.

In February we announced here that we were expecting a baby. On August 11th, Andrea was born in Toulouse (2).

She weighed 3,610 grams at birth and measured 50cm tall. Now, 4 and half months later she is over 7kg and over 63cm. She has been the highlight of the second half of the year.

Family 2.0. All these events made me slow down the blog posts production rate at some times during the year, though not for the lack of ideas or contents! Nevertheless, I managed to write about 90 posts! Plus the blog received over 50,000 visits in 2013 and surpassed the 100,000 since I started it in 2010.

On top of that, we saw how Luca went forward with her own blog, check it here.

Learning. What did I learn this year? The main job here has been to internalize on time the turn to becoming a father. Once that was assumed, I would say that, with the good health Andrea has had so far, it has been rather easy, albeit energy and time-consuming.

I would say that trickiest that I am finding is the balancing of time between family, hobbies and work. And it has been at the other side of the work-life balance, at the work, where another leap forward was required: in terms of new concepts, new position within the team and several challenges encountered. Though, with the great courage and support from Ruth and Loreto, the year has passed way smoother than one could have suspected.

Other than that, this year I did not manage to formally study neither French (booh! to myself) or Dutch (another big booh! to myself), and this is something that I will have to make up for in 2014 (otherwise I risk to be left out in conversations between wife and daughter!).

Online education: after getting started in 2012 with online courses, in 2013 I completed in Coursera platform the following 4 courses: “Energy 101” (Georgia Tech), “Model Thinking” (Uni. of Michigan), “Nutrition and Physical Activity for Health” (Uni. of Pittsburgh) and “Exercise Physiology: Understanding the Athlete Within” (Uni. of Melbourne). On the down side, I did not fully complete other 3 online courses for which I obtained only about 60% of the credits, even though I enjoyed them even more than the previous ones: “Game Theory” (Stanford), “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior” (Duke) and “Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity” (Stanford), in all three cases I missed some deadlines due to being travelling without time and proper connections to complete assignments.

Reading. This year I didn’t set any objectives in terms of books due to the reasons mentioned above. Add to that that my eReader broke at the beginning of the year and I only replaced it in June and only started to use the new eReader in December (!). I have only read 7 books in 2013 (“Thinking Fast and Slow”, “Calico Joe”, “Born to Run”, “Les Cow-boys d’Airbus”, “Personal Memoirs of US Grant”, “Moneyball” and “The Art of War” for a second time). I think I will soon write a post about them.

Sports. After about 16 years, I got to practice again skiing (!), which used to be one of my favourite sports. We went with colleagues to Val Louron, Saint-Lary and Baqueira. I also got to play soccer again after about 3 years without playing… with the misfortune of getting injured (left leg adductor) just weeks prior to a marathon.

Skiing in Val Louron (France).

Running the San Diego marathon.

As you can imagine if you are a frequent reader of the blog, what I practiced often was running. In 2013 I managed to run over 2,000 kilometres, I took part in 16 races including: 3 marathons (Rome, San Diego – while on honeymoon!- and Athens), 2 half marathons (La Latina – Madrid – and Toulouse) and 4 trails of around 20km each. For the last marathon I manage to complete a training plan to the end which made me very proud and helped to beat my 10k and half personal records.

I don’t remember from whom I picked the sentence “the running shoes, always in the suitcase”, but I follow it to the point: The year 2012 caught me running in Toulouse (all kind of corners in the French south west region), Gruissan, Madrid (the day I got married included), Torrelodones, Rome, Santander, Murcia, Santa Monica, San Diego, San Francisco (Bay to Breakers race included, and along the Golden Gate bridge), Sequoia National Park, Mojave desert, Tucson, San Diego, Everett, Oakland, San Lorenzo de la Parrilla (Cuenca), Comillas (Cantabria), Athens, Wijchen… so in a way it was also a year on the run. Many of these times I have been running with friends (Jaime, Serna, Manuel, Juan, Kike, Jon, Nacho, Gon, Juan, Nervi, Pablete…), which made it even better.

Investing & helping others: with the organization of the wedding in sight, I had a cash preference for the use of savings. With the wedding gone, I will re-start looking for investment opportunities in 2014 (hopefully the stock market isn’t so hot then).  In a few weeks I will publish how our investments (made in previous years) have fared in 2013, but they have gone well (as most of the stock markets). On the charities side: this year I directed 1.1% of my net income to different NGOs and non-profits (soon I’ll make a similar contribution, check out which ones will I support this time).

Travelling. This year either with Luca, with friends or alone, I visited Santander, Murcia, United States (LA, SF, Seattle, Mojave, Flagstaff, Tucson, San Diego…), Comillas, Greece (Athens, Delphi, Meteora, Marathon), The Netherlands (Wijchen, Den Bosch)… take the case of Andrea, who with just 4 months has been 3 times in Spain, 3 times in The Netherlands and Greece (having flown 11 times already)… those were the leisure trips; the job made me go to Madrid another 20-25 times (?), that made it tiresome and difficult to combine with other things.

My first flight on-board the A400M.

My first flight on-board the A400M.

Flying: again, 2013 has been a difficult year to find slots to fly with the instructor. Due to weather conditions, work, etc., we had to cancelled several sessions. In the end I could only fly over 13 hours. However, on August, 30, I did my first solo flight!. That was another highlight of the year. During the summer time, while my parents and in-laws were visiting to see our newborn, I could take onboard my mother and father-in-law. 

On top of that, on August 29, I got to fly onboard the aircraft I work on at Airbus Military, the A400M! (yet another highlight).

Other reasons for joy in 2013 have been:

  • Family: My brother switched jobs within the same company and will soon depart again for Germany. My sister, after completing her degree in Political Sciences, pursuing a course on Energy Security in Madrid and getting yet another certificate in English, moved to Odense (Denmark) to study a Master in Energy Security (you can follow her in her blog). My mother keeps working on her massage business, and my father is now engaged with 2 or 3 NGOs spending part of is time as a pensioner teaching maths, physics, etc., to disfavoured people in Madrid.
  • Some more friends and relatives got married: Marlies, Pablo, Jose, Unai, Marlies.
  • And apart from Andrea, these newborns will share her promotion: Julia, Aaron, Mencía, Diego, Julia, Maeva

Now it’s time to rest, celebrate and soon to plan how we want the 2014 to turn out. I believe the next year I’m going to give it a try to the processes’ approach at the time of setting goals. I have been repeating to myself for years that each year that passes is getting better than the previous one. If I see at the account above, improving 2013 seems difficult, but who am I to question that 2014 will be, again, the best year of my life!?

I wish you the same: the best for 2014, enjoy it!

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

(1) This post is becoming a classic of the blog (like those talking about aircraft discounts, best and worst posts, charities I support, etc). You can see my 20102011 and 2012 recaps.

(2) For the avoidance of doubt: despite of being born in France and due to her parents being Dutch and Spanish, Andrea is of Spanish and Dutch nationality, not French. Quoting a work colleague: “here [on the possibility of getting French nationality at birth or not], French law protects our children…” 🙂

Advertisements

12 Comments

Filed under Personal development & HR

Summary of (my) 2012

Let me share with you a brief recap of my 2012. (1)

Seychelles

Finally engaged.

I defined 2010 as a learning year, 2011 as a year on the run… I would describe my 2012 as a year of change:

  • I proposed to Luca and we’ll getting married in May 2013.
  • Luca came to live in Toulouse together with me last September, 4 years after having left Madrid to become a lawyer in The Netherlands.
  • My boss at the beginning of the year, Werner, moved to Germany thus I started reporting to his boss. A colleague, Paula, moved to another department and I had to fill the gap for some months trying to learn a complete new field for me. Yet another colleague, Rosa, moved to another country, and I will partially take over her role… and this implies managing a small team of 3 from January 1st.

I guess that all these changes didn’t give me the stability needed to fulfil all the objectives I had set myself at the beginning of the year… but don’t think 2012 wasn’t rich of events and fun. Have a seat in the roller coaster and run with me:

Sports. I wanted to do plenty of sports… in the end I run some 1,500 kilometres. I competed in 9 races, including tonight’s San Silvestre and two marathons: Paris and Berlin. I set personal best times in marathon (Paris, 3h45′) and 10k. I was not able to do so in half marathon due to an injury in the summer. Injuries forced me to run some 300 kilometres less than in 2011.

The year 2012 caught me running in Toulouse, Paris, Berlin, Torrelodones, Madrid, Sevilla, Rijswick, Papendal, Huelva, Asturias, Gaillac… so in a way it was also a year on the run. I also played some paddle, swam some days (including at North Sea, latitude 58º…) and got started with golf!

Learning. This year was also heavy on the learning side. It could have been much heavier if I had reached all my objectives. On the job I had to learn a great deal about configuration management in Airbus and will have to continue to do so, about leading and managing teams, about A400M aircraft systems…

Off of the job:

  • I subscribed to 4 online courses from Coursera and other platforms at the beginning of the year. I kept up with Codecademy for some 2 months while could not finish any of those courses (on valuation, corporate finance, game theory and model thinking). However, at the end of the year I took on some other 3 courses from Venture Lab and this time I did complete all 3 of them!
  • Languages: I started studying Dutch at the beginning of the year and I kept up with it for some 2-3 months… 2013 will force me to re-take it. French…
  • Toastmasters: I almost didn’t attend to my club meetings. I took part in the contests, though. having good experiences in the Spring winning both speech and evaluation and not so good in Autumn, not winning any, though being able to compete also at the area level.

Reading. At the beginning of the year I wanted to read at least 15 books. I started well, but in the end I have finished just 10 while being half way through other 4. Check out “my 2012 reading list“, including just the finished ones.

Investing & helping others. I again set myself high objectives for saving and investing. This year however, the engagement changed the focus of the savings: from stock market to a preference for cash, at least until all the wedding expenses have been paid out. On the charities side: this year I directed 0.9% of my net income to different NGOs (soon I’ll make a similar contribution, check out which ones will I support this time).

Travelling. This year either with Luca, with friends or alone, I visited Monaco (flying aboard a helicopter again!), Seychelles (where I proposed to Luca!), Asturias (twice), Huelva, The Netherlands (Papendal, Rijswick), Berlin – Nürnberg – Munich, Sevilla (twice), Madrid, Scotland, Corsica, Nancy, Geneva… those were the leisure trips; the job made me go to Madrid another 20-25 times (?), that made it tiresome and difficult to combine with other things.

Javi 2.0. For another year I kept it up with the blog. I recently reached 300 posts. I’m not sure whether I’ll always write about 100 posts per year, but if life keeps getting more interesting and I’ve got the time, count on it.

Change of plans due to the bad weather in the mountains, heading south to the coastline, re-calculating the route.

Flying back from Corsica.

Flying. Last year I took on flying lessons. I was slower in this front that had wished to, though it wasn’t always easy to find time slots to fly with so many trips on weekends. I recently surpassed 20 flight hours and started with go-arounds in the airport. Without any doubt, the trip to Corsica with a colleague was the best flying experience of the year. I’ll hopefully start with solo flights at the beginning of 2013 (beware!).

Other reasons for joy…

  • It goes without saying it: Luca came to Toulouse!
  • My sister, Beatriz, completed her masters in Political Sciences. My father spent some 5 months in Bolivia working for NGO teaching children a bit of maths and who-knows-what (he is doing similar work for NGOs now in Madrid), mom kept on giving massages and Jaime had roller coaster year with the A400M!
  • Some friends and relatives got married… Fernando, Diego, Héctor, Sergio, Ceci.
  • Newborns: Clara, Lenny…

Now it’s time to rest, celebrate and soon to update the objectives setting for 2013. I believe I’ll give myself a more relaxed set of personal goals to cope with job changes, personal changes and else. One thing I am sure of: 2013 will be, again, the best year of my life!

I wish you the same: the best for 2013, enjoy it!

(1) This post is becoming a classic of the blog (like those talking about aircraft discounts, best and worst posts, charities I support, etc). You can see my 2010 and 2011 recaps.

8 Comments

Filed under Personal development & HR

3 billion of Takatoris

In this post I just wanted to share a couple of thoughts that I discussed with my father and older brother some months ago on the welfare state that we enjoy in Europe.

Luca and I went on a holiday trip to Japan 3 years ago. There, while in Kyoto and thanks to a cultural association, we enjoyed an activity consisting of spending the afternoon and evening with a Japanese family at their place.

The Takatori family lived in the centre of Kyoto (a wonderful city). He was an engineer who worked for a big electronics company (I forgot the name), thus I imagine that he earned a decent salary. The family lived in a 40-50 sqm flat, without bedrooms for the teenage children as they slept in futons in the living room. The Takatoris had no car and travelled either by bike or public transport every where.

At some point in the conversation we talked about travelling, holidays, etc., and then I asked him how many holidays did he had? “120 days.” I was surprised, “120 days?!?” He explained it better: “There are 120 days a year in which I don’t work, including weekends”… I started making the numbers: since the year has 52 weeks, 104 days are weekends, these left only 16 days off for Mr. Takatori, including bank holidays. This was in Japan and a medium class family.

I take it that in the rest of East Asia the conditions will be lower and work ethics will be at par with Japan (think of Chinese shops opening schedules in Europe).

When I compare that with Europe: 35 hour work-week (in France), a collective bargaining agreement with 211 working days a year (or 154 non-work days as Takatori viewed it – since weekends are the same here and in Japan, that means we enjoy 34 days more of holidays, or 7 more full weeks!), subsidies for a myriad of things, retirement at 60 (in France, with protests when raised to 62)… well, there’s simply no comparison.

Sure, the system we have here is something to be proud of, but then again, will it last? It’s not like the Takatoris of Japan, China, South Korea, etc., will refrain to: work an hour or a day more, lower a dollar in a price, retire a year later, etc., so we can continue to enjoy our welfare state.

Will it last? I have no answer, it escapes my power of analysis, but if I were you, I’d start saving yesterday.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Economy, France, Travelling

Snowball (Compound interest)

I wanted to share with you in this post a speech I gave last Saturday at Rosemasters club contest. I was not contesting but a speech was needed for the evaluation contest, so I volunteered.

Why do I share this speech in particular? Not because it was especially good (nor especially bad), but because it has some insights that could help some of you in case you hadn’t reflected on them or made the numbers yourself.

I titled the speech “Snowball” but a more suitable title would have been “Snowball, or the beauty of compound interest”. Please, note that the metaphor of the snowball it’s not mine, so no need to praise my originality here. I borrowed it from Alison Schroeder’s biography of Warren Buffett “Snowball”, which I reviewed in other post in this blog (I take the opportunity to recommend the book again).

Below you can watch the video uploaded in Youtube (from the second 0:42 some helping hand lifts the camera, please be patient during those first seconds). Below the video I share the script of the speech so you can actually see the formula and the charts I showed. Reflect on it; it may help you a lot a long way down the road.

—–

Script:

“How many of you used to play with snow when you were a child?

Do you remember what the process you followed to build snowballs was? You started by making a small ball with your hands, like this. Then, you left it on the ground and let it roll over itself, so it was gaining more snowflakes and thus getting a bit bigger with every roll… for you it was a small effort, and after some time of rolling and rolling over, you easily could end up with big snowball like this.

Mr Contest chair, fellow members and guests,

Today I haven’t come to talk about snow. I want

  1. to explain the concept of compound interest
  2. to show how important it can be for or future and
  3. maybe to persuade you to take some action.

Let’s start:

This is the formula.

It shows what is the future value (FV) of an investment’s present value (PV) that gains a fixed interest rate (i) for n periods.

To put it simple, it means that the interest that we earn over the investment in the first year, will enter the calculation in the second year. In a very similar way that small snowflakes are making the snowball bigger.

  • The importance of compound interest for our future.

Who is the younger member of the audience today? I will ask you one question, let me see if I get the answer I want.

Are you saving and investing with your retirement in mind? Do you have pension plan or fund?

An extremely important factor in this discussion is that time in the formula appears in the exponent. This means the longer the time period, the better. Or put it in another way, the sooner we start investing or saving, the better.

I made two quick calculations to show you. Imagine a 25 year old person who just started working. If he or she is able to save 250 euros per month, that is 3,000 euros per year, and puts it in a conservative fund which earns 3% a year… by the time he is 65 he will have around 230.000€. His yearly contribution would have been 123.000€. So another 110.000€ will have come from the interest. He will practically have doubled his money.

On the other hand, take a 50 year old person who never saved any money beforehand. He will have to save it in only the last 15 years of his working life. To make the comparison, I supposed that he contributed the same 123.000€ in those 15 years, for this he has to save 8.200 per year or 680€ per month… when he is 65 he will have 150.000€, having earned about 30.000€ from the interests, 4 times less!

Effect of a 3% compound interest over 40 years.

If the young person would invest in more volatile asset, for example the stock market, which historically earns about 8% every year, the new figures would be these ones.

  • 840.000 – earning 720.000 from interests
  • 222.000 – earning 100.000 from interests / 7 times less.

Effect of a 8% compound interest over 40 years.

Finally, with this discussion I wanted to explain little bit the compound interest, how it is making your savings grow, and even though at the beginning the growth seems very slow this is because the growth with time is exponential and we human beings are not very patient, thus it is important to start early saving small amounts, as snowflakes… in the end you will have a big snowball.

Start saving and see you at the retirement age.”

—–

Final comment: as you may have noticed there several passages when what I say differs from the script. I didn’t learn it by heart. During my first speeches in Toastmasters I tried to do so. Now I am departing from that approach. However, I do write the speech to give it a clear structure, to polish some parts, spot words I may have difficulty in pronouncing (so I can replace them for others) and count the amount of words so I am sure it fits in 5 to 7 minutes (often 7’30”… never more or fellow Toastmasters will start clapping).

5 Comments

Filed under Investing, Toastmasters